U.S. DEFEATS SERBIA,
ADVANCES TO QUARTERFINALS
Pat Mitsch | February 3, 2018
NIS, Serbia – Consider this round of U.S. Davis Cup matches a trilogy in which all three parts followed a nearly identical script.
In the end, Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson (pictured above) ensured the U.S. walked away from Serbia victorious, overcoming a plucky Serbian team of Nicola Milojevic and Miljan Zekic, 6-7, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4, on Saturday to clinch this World Group first-round tie and move on to the quarterfinals, which will be hosted on home soil.
Despite another disparity in ranking and, in this case, achievement, between the two sides – Harrison is the reigning French Open doubles champ and Johnson the reigning Olympic doubles bronze medalist, while Milojevic is ranked outside the Top 300 in doubles and Zekic outside the Top 1,000 – the upstart Serbians played up to the occasion.
The Americans converted only five of 15 break-point chances but ended up forcing 75 errors to help them prevail.
“We weren’t surprised,” Harrison said. “We know that the Serbian team is a good team, and there’s a lot of players that are very capable of playing doubles, so we knew that it was going to be tough. Early on, we were a little bit nervous. It’s a different environment, playing in a team atmosphere and representing your country.
“I personally was really happy that my captain and my partner were able to help settle me down after a rough start. I thought we did a really good job of competing really hard throughout the whole match. On some days, it’s most gratifying when you have to go into a tough environment and maybe work around a couple obstacles in your own game to get the game.”
Added Johnson: “No surprise that they came out and played great on their home court. We just had to weather the storm a little bit. But once we got rolling, I felt pretty confident in our abilities to get the job done.”
While Johnson dropped Sunday’s lone dead singles match to Pedja Krstin, 6-1, 7-5, the U.S. moves on to the quarterfinal round, April 6-8, against Belgium, which defeated Hungary.
“These are three very difficult, close matches,” said U.S. Captain Jim Courier. “Can’t get any closer than 7-6 in the fifth, clearly, in the second singles match, but all the matches had pivotal moments, and we could be easily sitting here talking about how we lost, 3-0, too, so they put up a heck of a fight, and our team did the same and came up with some clutch shots when we needed them.
“We’re thrilled to be into the quarterfinals,” Courier added. “It would be nice for these guys to get a chance to play back in the U.S. We’ve played the last two on the road, so we’re looking forward to that opportunity.”
[Note: This story was updated on Sunday, Feb. 4, with the result of the third singles match.]