Great Britain ‘ready’ to try and ruin Novak Djokovic’s astonishing year at Davis Cup

Britain will take on Serbia in the quarter-finals in Malaga on Thursday, with Cameron Norrie facing the World No 1 in the second singles rubber

Eleanor Crooks
Wednesday 22 November 2023 16:20 GMT
Novak Djokovic secures record 7th ATP finals win

Great Britain’s Davis Cup team are determined to ruin Novak Djokovic’s final big goal of another astonishing season.

At 36, the Serbian is arguably more dominant than ever having added a record-breaking seventh ATP Finals crown in Turin at the weekend to three more grand slam titles.

He was agonisingly close to winning all four, missing out by the narrowest of margins to Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final, but since then Djokovic has stamped his authority back on the sport, lifting the trophy in all the events he has played.

Thursday’s quarter-final in Malaga will see a Djokovic-led Serbia take on Leon Smith’s Britain, who were talking up their chances at the Palacio de deportes Martin Carpena arena on Wednesday.

“Davis Cup, there is a lot of hype, a lot of fans,” said Cameron Norrie, who will have the daunting task of taking on Djokovic in the second singles rubber.

“It’s a different kind of pressure. I think it’s going to work in our favour and we love it. It’s been a long ride this year and we’ve got a great team. We’re all ready to compete.”

Norrie has won only one set in three previous matches against Djokovic and their last meeting in Rome in May ended in a war of words after the British number one hit his opponent in the leg with a smash.

Norrie has had a disappointing second half of the season and opted to miss the Paris Masters in order to rest ahead of this event.

“I’m going to go and be myself, give it everything and take it to him,” he said. “It’s a huge privilege to play against him, especially in Davis Cup. I have played him in a few big matches already.

Novak Djokovic will lead Serbia against Great Britain on Thursday (Manu Fernandez/AP)

“I can’t wait. We’re excited to get out there and I think at the end of the day, he’s just another player and I’m going to go run for everything and give it everything.”

Barring an almighty upset, though, Britain’s chances of progressing to Saturday’s semi-final depend on in-form Jack Draper winning the opening singles match – probably against 33rd-ranked Laslo Djere – and then success in the doubles.

Djokovic would certainly play if it came down to a deciding rubber but he has no real pedigree in the format, while Joe Salisbury – fresh from ATP Finals success – and Neal Skupski have both won slam titles this season.

Captain Leon Smith’s preparations have been disrupted by injury, with Dan Evans, who starred in singles and doubles during the group stage in Manchester in September, suffering a calf injury last month and Andy Murray withdrawing on Saturday because of a shoulder problem.

Smith drafted in Salisbury to replace Evans and then Liam Broady in place of Murray, but, unlike in Manchester, where he used four different singles players, it is now very clear how the team will take shape.

“Obviously Dan’s (injury) happened a few weeks ago so we had time to get over that,” said Smith. “It was a blow. He’s been with us in Colombia right at the start of the year and obviously played a huge role in what happened in Manchester, singles and doubles.

Great Britain is a very strong team in this format. If we split singles matches, then we're getting into the doubles, where they have the best players in the world

Novak Djokovic

“Andy’s was much more recent and obviously he’s gutted. I said this to the guys the other night, I think there is some upside to how it’s now formed.

“First of all, we’ve got amazing players that have come in. Wind the clock back, if we had had a couple of withdrawals five, 10 years ago, it wouldn’t have looked like that. We’ve got a great team.”

Britain will be backed by a sizeable support, with 5,000 fans making the trip to the Costa del Sol, the most of any nation at the final-eight event.

Djokovic expects a fierce battle, saying: “Great Britain has so many options, for both singles and doubles. I know that Andy Murray and Evans are not here and obviously they have been contributing to qualifications for the last eight in September.

“But, still, Great Britain is a very strong team in this format. If we split singles matches, then we’re getting into the doubles, where they have the best players in the world.

“We rely on singles but, if it comes to doubles, we are also ready to pair up in the different combinations and give it all.

“We heard that the stadium is going to be almost filled tomorrow. I know there is great British presence in this stretch in the coast of Andalucia. I’m really looking forward to it.”

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