Despite boasting a player who is unbeaten in his last 22 matches there is mounting evidence to suggest that the Czech Republic can humiliate the layers and defend their Davis Cup crown.
Winners in 2010, Serbia have the advantage of home soil but the only edge they will receive will be from the boisterous Belgrade crowd as the surface they have chosen to best play to their strengths is also the one that their opponents are most comfortable on.
As a result the tie will come down solely to the players and with the recent revelation that Serbia’s number two, Janko Tipsarevic is out of the tie having failed to recover from a chronic heel injury, odds of 1/1 on a Czech Republic win are looking increasingly generous .
Serbia were already dealt a blow at the beginning of November when their third rated singles player Victor Troicki was ruled out of the final for definite when the Court of Arbitration reduced his ban by only eight months to a year.
Now captain Bogdan Obradovic is left with the unenviable challenge of picking through players he must of thought he would never have to turn to.
The highest ranked option is world number 117, Dusan Lajovic who has been playing only challenger tour events in the second half of the season followed by llija Bozoljac and Filip Krajinovic who are both placed over 100 places below on the pecking order. Team stalwart Nenad Zimonjic hasn’t played a meaningful Davis Cup single rubber since 2008 and is used only for the doubles and general experience.
The Czech Republic on the other hand have no such problems. World number seven Tomas Berdych and top-50 performers Radek Stepanek and Lukas Rosol make up an extremely balanced team both in terms of quality and experience.
Berdych and Stepanek have forged an excellent partnership in doubles, teaming up to win 13 of their 14 rubbers together. Part of that success together came against Serbia as well with victories last year and back in 2010 and regardless of who the home side put out the visitors should win with something to spare on the middle day.
Despite Djokovic understandably saying he is exhausted after a long season it would still be incredibly optimistic to allow for anything but two singles wins from the fiercely patriotic Serb – he has only lost once to Berdych in their last 13 and hasn’t dropped a set in their last three best-of-five encounters.
And so with Berdych certain to win one singles the tie looks destined to come down to one of the final matches on the Sunday where either Stepanek or Rosol will probably face the out-of-his-depth Lajovic. This looks like being the pivotal encounter and one that the Czechs will be heavily odds-on to win.
Djokovic’s position in the game has long overshadowed a remarkable depth in a Serbian team that are still relatively new to the competition, but no line-up in the world would be able to lose their second and third best player and not be seriously affected. Tipsarevic’s absence requires their position as favourites for the tie has to be seriously questioned as the 1/1 available no longer reflects what has become a crushing reality for the Serbs.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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