Novak Djokovic drawn to play David Nalbandian in opening tie of Davis Cup semifinal
World No. 1 returns to Belgrade just days after his grueling U.S. Open final triumph
Losing finalist Rafael Nadal to play for Spain in other semi against France
Serbia beat France in last year's final to win teams event for the first time
Serbia’s Davis Cup champions hope that world No. 1 Novak Djokovic will be able to play in Friday’s opening rubber of the semifinal against Argentina in Belgrade.
The 24-year-old arrived in his home city on Thursday following his epic four-hour U.S. Open final victory over Rafael Nadal in New York on Monday.
He has been drawn to play David Nalbandian, but his teammates are prepared for the possibility that history will repeat itself in the tennis teams event.
Last year Djokovic also played in a Monday final at Flushing Meadows, that time losing to Nadal, and pulled out of his opening singles against the Czech Republic after falling ill.
“We’ll see how he feels,” said Victor Troicki, who clinched the decisive rubber in last December’s final against France. “If he’s not that great, I’ll be definitely ready to play the first match against Nalbandian.
“Last year I found out three hours before the match that I would play, but this time I’m aware that he might not play if he’s not right.”
Nalbandian, who lost to Nadal in the third round at the U.S. Open, has been struggling with injuries this year but holds a 3-1 career record over Troicki.
The former world No. 3, now ranked 74th, is 1-4 against Djokovic – who has won 64 of 66 matches this year.
“David has been a main feature for Argentina in Davis Cup for the last few years, he’s a real cup player,” Argentina captain Tito Vazquez told the tournament’s website.
“He’s been trying quite hard to come back on the circuit. He played an excellent first set against Nadal in the U.S. Open, and he’s a player who’s capable of beating anybody, so that’s why we chose him.”
The second singles rubber sees Serbia No. 2 Janko Tipsarevic take on former world No. 4 Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion who is resurrecting his career after a year out with wrist problems.
Tipsarevic and Nenad Zimonjic were drawn to face Juan Ignacio Chela and Juan Monaco in Saturday’s doubles tie, but that line-up could yet change depending on Friday’s results.
In the second semifinal, last year’s runners-up France travel to Cordoba to play Nadal’s Spain on his favored clay surface.
The French won 5-0 in his absence last year, but may struggle without injured world No. 7 Gael Monfils – their best clay player.
Nadal will play Richard Gasquet in the opening rubber, then Gilles Simon will take over as France’s No. 1 against David Ferrer.
Nadal has beaten 15th-ranked Gasquet in all nine professional encounters, while world No. 11 Simon’s only win over Ferrer came on Cincinnati’s hard-courts this year after two clay defeats in 2007.
“I know exactly what he’s going to do,” Simon said of his fifth-ranked opponent. “He’s a real warrior on the court, but I know that I can win and I have to keep believing that every moment.”
In the doubles, Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco will play France’s Michael Llodra and world No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has struggled on clay this year but may be given a chance in the reverse singles.