(Reuters) – A spirited Russia battled past 2010 champions Serbia 2-1 in the Davis Cup quarter-finals on Friday to reach the last four of the competition for the first time since 2008.
Andrey Rublev put Russia in front by swatting aside Filip Krajinovic 6-1 6-2 in the opening match of the day at Spain’s La Caja Magica before Novak Djokovic dragged Serbia back into the tie with a 6-3 6-3 win over Karen Khachanov.
With his 15th straight Davis Cup singles victory in the bag, Djokovic teamed up with Viktor Troicki in the deciding doubles match but the pair squandered three match points as Rublev and Khachanov prevailed 6-4 4-6 7-6(8).
Russia will next face Canada, who claimed their first ever Davis Cup victory over Australia on Thursday to reach the semi-finals of the revamped 18-team competition.
Rublev got 2002 and 2006 champions Russia off to a blistering start by dismantling Krajinovic, firing 13 aces and winning 82% of points on his first serve in the process.
The world number 23 raced 5-0 ahead in the first set before wrapping it up in only 21 minutes. An error-prone Krajinovic was unable to recover from there as Rublev sealed the match with an ace to put his team ahead.
Rublev’s crushing win heaped pressure on Djokovic, with the world number two needing to beat Khachanov to keep his team in the tie, and the 32-year-old did not disappoint fans with a typically dominant display to steady the ship.
Djokovic, who appeared to struggle with a right arm problem during the tight doubles clash, missed a backhand in the third set tiebreak to hand Russia a match-point and Rublev sealed the victory on his serve.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)