Djokovic leads Serbia in Davis Cup semifinals
U.S. Open runner-up Novak Djokovic will get a chance to reach another important final this weekend when Serbia faces the Czech Republic in Davis Cup competition.
Djokovic, who lost to Rafael Nadal in four sets on Monday in New York, will lead the Serbs on indoor hardcourt in Belgrade in the best-of-five semifinal starting Friday. The second-ranked Djokovic is undefeated in four matches in the competition this year.
''This is one of the key matches and the interest of the Serbian public is huge,'' Djokovic said. ''I'm ready to play in Belgrade, and I don't think this loss to Nadal will affect my form.''
In the other semifinal, France will host Argentina on indoor hardcourt in Lyon.
In the World Group playoffs, it's: Colombia vs. United States; Israel vs. Austria; Germany vs. South Africa; Sweden vs. Italy; India vs. Brazil; Australia vs. Belgium; and Kazakhstan vs. Switzerland.
The United States has dropped out of the World Group only once since it began in 1981. Without Andy Roddick in Colombia, the Americans will be represented by John Isner, Mardy Fish, Sam Querrey and Ryan Harrison.
U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe will step down after this weekend. He announced his resignation after 10 years on the job during the U.S. Open. McEnroe guided the United States to a Davis Cup title in 2007.
Djokovic will play alongside Viktor Troicki, Janko Tipsarevic and Nenad Zimonjic against the Czech team of Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych, Radek Stepanek, Jan Hajek and Ivo Minar.
Djokovic beat Roger Federer in the U.S. Open semifinals, twice coming back from a set down to win in five. That put him in the final against Nadal, who had won the previous two major titles at the French Open and Wimbledon and completed a career Grand Slam by winning in Flushing Meadows.
''I've played the best tennis now in certainly last seven, eight months, maybe the whole year,'' Djokovic said. ''So from Wimbledon up to this point, I feel much more comfortable on the court, more confident and getting this aggressive game back and the game that I need to have in order to stay at the top, and a game that has been a part of me always.''
Serbia has never before reached the final as an independent country. As Yugoslavia, the country reached the World Group semifinals in 1988, '89 and '91.
The final is scheduled for Dec. 3-5.
Argentina is trying to make the final for the third time in the past five years. The team will be led by David Nalbandian, who has won three singles matches and one doubles match in the competition this year despite missing most of last year following hip surgery.
''It's going to be tough,'' Nalbandian said. ''I think it's going to be tougher than Russia (in the quarterfinals), but we have to try to believe in the team and try to do the best all of the days over there. We have to keep our focus on the semis.''
Nalbandian will be joined by Juan Monaco, Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zeballos against Gael Monfils, Michael Llodra, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon.
The French, who last reached the semifinals in 2004, won the Davis Cup in Lyon in 1991, beating the United States 3-1.
''You're not playing for yourself, you're playing for your flag,'' said Monfils, who reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals but lost to Djokovic. ''You have your whole country behind you, an unbelievable crowd, your friends on the side, your captain on the chair. There's a different spirit.''
In the playoffs, Switzerland will take on Kazakhstan without Federer, who has decided to skip the series to stay fresh for the rest of the season.
''I need some extra time to relax after the intense weeks in North America so I can finish the year strong,'' Federer said on his official website.