(ISN) – KRALJEVO, SERBIA – Down but not out for the count, a resurgent Viktor Troicki fought back valiantly against Borna Coric to give Serbia a 2-0 lead over traditional Balkan rivals Croatia in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas first-round tie after World No.1 Novak Djokovic beat Mate Delic in straight sets.
A day of enthralling action in the Kraljevo Arena, hosting an event of this magnitude for the first time, was capped fittingly for the patriotic home fans with Troicki outmuscling 18-year old Coric 46 16 63 62 61 following Djokovic’s 63 62 64 defeat of Delic.
Having given the Croatians a red-carpet reception when they cheered them on to the court and then applauded their national anthem, the home fans treated Djokovic to a rousing ovation which inspired him to an expectably emphatic victory in just 89 minutes.
But they were largely subdued in the opening two sets of Troicki’s titanic tussle with world tennis upcoming prospect Coric, who ran the Serb rugged with stinging baseline shots.
Troicki looked off the pace and struggled in long rallies as Coric justified Djokovic’s accolades describing the youngster as a rising star and the next big name of the men’s ATP Tour.
However, when the match seemed beyond the Serb’s reach after Coric broke his serve in the opening game of the third set, it was as if a different Troicki appeared out of nowhere while Coric wilted mentally and physically.
“I played the best tennis of my life in the opening two sets and then, after missing two or three volleys which I shouldn’t have, I just ran out of steam and ideas while Viktor became aggressive and took advantage of my mistakes,” said Coric.
“Physical fitness made all the difference in this match as I couldn’t keep up with the high tempo game.”
The home crowd favourite, who dug deep into his vast experience and resources, won the next five games and then held serve to haul himself back into the match, galvanising a capacity 3,000 home crowd and his team mates on the Serbian bench.
Having turned the match on its head, Troicki took over completely mixing searing forehands with volleys and powerful serves to rattle his opponent, who inexplicably handed over the initiative after he seemed to be home and dry.
Troicki turned the tide after breaking Coric’s serve in the fifth game of the fourth set, clinching the next seven games to level the match at two sets all and then take a commanding 4-0 lead in the fifth.
An ecstatic home crowd erupted in joy after the 29-year old from Belgrade capped a long-awaited return to Serbia’s Davis Cup team with Coric smashing a forehand into the net after three hours and three minutes of play.
“The fans really gave me a huge lift when I was two sets down,” a delighted Troicki told Serbian television in a courtside interview.
“I was the one bereft of ideas in the opening two sets but clawing my way back into the match gave me the confidence and strength to complete the comeback against a top quality opponent.
“Winning the 2010 Davis Cup was the biggest moment of my tennis career and we would surely like to repeat that. We feel good and believe we can go far this year. I am definitely fit to play the doubles tomorrow, that’s one my strengths. I could have played longer today if I needed to.”
There was no such drama in Djokovic’s match against Delic as the world’s top-ranked players dominated from start to finish and made light work of the opening singles rubber.
The Serb kept wrong-footing Delic with searing forehands and also unleashed a variety of other weapons, ranging from high-precision backhands as well as delightful drop-shots and volleys on the indoor hardcourt surface.
He sealed the opening set with a second-serve ace, drawing a standing ovation from the home crowd who treated the Croatians to a warm welcome and applauded their national anthem prior to the tie.
The second set produced more of the same as Djokovic demonstrated his superiority in all departments. Having twice broken his battling opponent’s serve, the 27-year old from Belgrade was always in cruise control and doubled his lead although Delic fought as hard as he could to stay in the set.
An improved Delic held his opening two serves in the third set but the writing was on the wall for the 21-year old after Djokovic broke him again, drawing loud cheers from the spectators with a superb drop-volley.
“I was very much aware of my young opponent’s quality. He does have a lot of potential to be very good in the future,” Djokovic said.
He was fighting and put up a great performance today and I am hence happy with my overall performance.
“I took my break point opportunities very well and on the other hand I served confidently and didn’t face any break points at all.”
“I enjoyed the atmosphere very much as I played for the first time in Kraljevo and this region in general. It was a full house and overall a very positive emotion.”