Novak Djokovic overcame some early nerves to beat Radek Stepanek in straight sets Friday and give Serbia a 1-0 lead over defending champion Czech Republic in the Davis Cup final.
Djokovic won 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 on an indoor hard court at Belgrade Arena for his 23rd consecutive victory since losing to Rafael Nadal in the U.S. Open final in September.
Djokovic broke to go up 4-2 in the first set but had to save two break points in the next game and failed to serve it out at 5-3, when he committed a series of errors. However, he broke again in the 12th game to take the lead.
“I was a bit nervous in the first set,” Djokovic said. “It was very important to win that one against high-quality player like Radek.”
The second-ranked Serb held serve the rest of the match — saving seven break points in all, while converting five of six he created.
“Whenever I would face (break points) I would come up with some big serves,” Djokovic said. “I think that is what helped me stay confident in those moments.”
Stepanek said Djokovic was serving “tremendously consistently,” which prevented him from getting another break.
“The first set was really high quality, and so was the third,” the Czech veteran said. “His defence is the best in the world, he proved that with his movement that he showed around the court. He always makes you play an extra shot.”
The Czechs’ top player Tomas Berdych played Serbian rookie Dusan Lajovic in the second singles Friday. The 117th-ranked Lajovic is replacing Janko Tipsarevic, who missed the final best-of-five series with a heel injury.
“It is important to take a lead in the Davis Cup,” Djokovic said. “It could take some weight off the back of young Lajovic.”
The Czechs are in the final for the third time in five years. Serbia won its only Davis Cup title in Belgrade in 2010, beating France.