By Junior Williams
DAVIS CUP: SERBIA HOLDS OFF BRYANS IN THRILLER
Takes 2-1 lead after Zimonjic, Bozoljac win in five-set marathon.
(April 6, 2013) BOISE, Idaho – Serbia Davis Cup captain Bogdan Obradovic is probably saying, “I told you so.”
He stuck with No. 335th ranked Ilija Bozoljac instead of replacing him with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
The payoff: Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic defeated top-ranked Americans Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 5-7, 4-6, 15-13 in a thrilling 4 hour 21- minute doubles match in the Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinals at Taco Bell Arena, giving Serbia a 2-1 lead heading into Sunday’s rubbers and an opportunity for Djokovic to clinch the tie in his singles match.
Bozoljac’s powerful serves — many of them rockets at around 135 miles per hour — helped to neutralize the Bryans. Together, Bozoljac and Zimonjic served up 36 aces to the Americans’ twelve.
The 27-year old Bozoljac also came through with a number of backhand winners down the line. his play, combined with the experience of former world number one doubles player Zimonjic, came in handy for the Serbs.
Both teams broke each other midway through the first set, but it was Serbia that struck first by winning the tiebreak on a Zimonjic second serve ace, followed by a winner that clipped the baseline.
The second tiebreak also went to Serbia, helped by a minibreak due to a net cord and a strong service game resulting in three aces.
But the world’s No. 1 doubles team refused to give up. The Americans began their comeback by breaking Bozoljac’s serve in the final game of the third set, as Zimonjic’s block of a Mike Bryan shot sailed beyond the baseline.
The Bryans repeated the feat in the fourth set, as Zimonjic — who was serving this game — knocked a return from the Americans in to the net, knotting up the match at two sets apiece.
In the fifth set, each team managed to hold serve while escaping danger at times, until the 27th game of the set, when Bozoljac’s backhad stab return was sent wide by the Americans to give Serbia a break and a chance to serve out the match.
But there was more drama, as Zimonjic double faulted to give the Bryans two break points and a chance to tie the set at 14-14. That’s when Zimonjic blasted two aces to tie the game at deuce.
After the Bryans staved off one match point on a lob the Serbs couldn’t convert, Zimonjic served out the next two points, ending with an ace to seal the victory for Serbia. The winners hugged each other on the court as their supporters cheered wildly. Despite their disappointment, those rooting for the home team applauded the quality play of both the Serbians and the Americans.
Just how close was the match? Each team scored 217 points.
“For sure, it’s the biggest win in the Davis Cup doubles for me,” said Zimonjic. “We were playing very good.
“This was definitely a great, great performance and great match from me.”
“Anybody who was supposed to play with Nenad was supposed to be the underdog against the Bryans,” Bozoljac said. “We won and I just can’t believe it happened.
“For me, it definitely means a lot because this is my best performance in Davis Cup so far. I knew if I give my 100 percent for one match I could play on a really high level.”
“Have to tip our hats to those guys, obviously,” said a disappointed Bob Bryan. “Thought they played really well all day. 36 aces, didn’t give us much opportunity, in the fifth especially.
“Just one of those things. Obviously disappointed we let the team down.”
He’s a guy we haven’t seen too much of on the tour,” Mike Bryan said about journeyman Bozoljac. “Asked a few questions of guys that have seen him play. Gave us a few things. But he served great all day. He actually was a stronger returner. There at the end he didn’t show any nerves, came up with the goods, especially on some of those 30‑All points.”
US Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier was asked about if Bozoljac’s is a testament to the spirit of Davis Cup “I think inspiration is pretty easy to come by when you’re playing for the colors on your back, US. We’ve seen a lot of people in this competition rise up. You look at the numbers next to the guy’s career, you see the performance today, something doesn’t add up. You clearly see there was some inspiration, chemistry with Nenad on the court, and you say, Too good.”
It was the second consecutive Davis Cup defeat for the Bryans, who back in February lost in the World Group First Round to Brazil’s Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares. The winningest doubles team in U.S. Davis Cup history is now 20-4 when playing together.
Now the U.S. faces a tall task in tomorrow’s reverse singles, with Djokovic set to take on Sam Querrey in the first match. If Querrey pulls off the upset, it’ll be left to American John Isner and Serb Viktor Troicki to settle the tie.
Junior Williams is a long-time journalist and tennis fan. At a moment’s notice he can give you a list of all the Davis Cup match-ups that would give the US home ties. He is in Boise, Idaho covering the Davis Cup quarterfinal World Group tie between the United States and Serbia for Tennis Panorama News.