The World Group semifinal round of the Davis Cup men's team tennis competition is set to get underway on Friday with U.S. Open runner-up Novak Djokovic leading Serbia against the visiting Czech Republic, and France hosting Argentina.
Novak Djokovic, who was defeated by Spanish world number-one Rafael Nadal in four sets at the U.S. Open in New York on Monday, says he does not think the loss will affect his form in the best-of-five series on an indoor hardcourt in Belgrade.
With barely a night's sleep following the loss, the second ranked Djokovic is spearheading Serbia's attempt to reach its first Davis Cup final. He says he has gotten a warm welcome on his return home.
"I'm managing to find some energy. And the people love my success. They followed my matches and they just appreciated everything I have done there," Djokovic. "And I hear there is a tennis fever in our country, which is very nice to hear. Of course, I am aware of the great importance of this match against the Czech Republic."
Djokovic will play the opening singles match against Czech number-two Radek Stepanek. Janko Tipsavevic will then take on top Czech player and world number-seven Tomas Berdych. Stepanek was once in the top 10, but has fallen to number 35.
Djokovic says he knows what is at stake for his nation, as Serbia has a chance to go further in Davis Cup competition than it, or its predecessor Yugoslavia, has ever gone before.
"It's a historic chance and we are aware of that. We won against [the United] States at home in [the] first round and then [against] Croatia away, two very strong teams," he said. "And we have proven that we can play pretty well at home and away on any surface. So it gives us a lot of advantage; we have a lot of options. And we have a young team that's still got many years to come."
In the other Davis Cup semifinal, France will host Argentina on an indoor hardcourt in Lyon. Doubles specialist Michael Llodra plays the opening singles match against Argentina's Juan Monaco. The teams' two best players meet next with U.S. Open quarterfinalist Gael Monfils taking on Argentina's David Nalbandian.
Nalbandian is aware that Monfils is unbeaten in Davis Cup play this year and he says he knows Argentina faces a strong challenge.
"It's going to be a good fight. All the points are going to be tough ones for both teams. You never know," said Nalbandian. "[The] Davis Cup is completely different than the tour and we are ready to do our best. We are going to see what happens."
The winners of the three-day Davis Cup semifinals will meet for the championship, beginning December 3.