Canada’s Milos Raonic fought off a match point and an ankle injury to pull out a five-set victory over Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic on Friday to tie the best-of-five Davis Cup at one match apiece.
Raonic needed four hours 12 minutes to complete the 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 10-8 victory at the Belgrade Arena. Earlier, top-ranked Novak Djokovic had little trouble in a 6-2, 6-0, 6-4 win over Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil.
Raonic appeared to roll over on his ankle midway through the match but he fought through it, relying on his booming serve to overpower his opponent. Raonic, the world No. 11 from Thornhill, Ont., had 34 aces to just seven for Tipsarevic, who’s ranked 23rd in the world.
“Getting through that match is a big weight off the shoulders,” said Raonic. “I tried to plug through some difficult situations and I did a lot of things well. I felt like I played aggressive and that was the key.
“I also served much better from the fourth set on. I stuck to what I believe I needed to do to win.”
The victory takes some of the pressure off Pospisil and Toronto’s Daniel Nestor, who will team up in Saturday’s doubles match against Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonic. A Raonic loss would have created a must-win situation for the Canadian doubles duo.
Reverse singles matches are on tap for Sunday. The singles draws are flipped with Djokovic to open against Raonic and Tipsarevic to play Pospisil.
The winner of the tie will play either the Czech Republic or Argentina in the final in November. The Czechs won both singles matches Friday for a 2-0 lead.
Djokovic, who was coming off a loss to Rafael Nadal in the U.S. Open final on Monday, won 12 consecutive games midway through the opening match. He completed the victory in one hour 41 minutes.
“I’m not going to put up any excuses. He’s the No. 1 in the world for a reason and I thought he played amazing,” said Pospisil. “He didn’t make any mistakes. I have to play my best tennis to keep it close and I was playing well in the beginning and after I went down a break I started panicking a bit and wasn’t playing my best.”
Pospisil has had a breakthrough season and is up to No. 41 in the world rankings. However, he was unable to put much pressure on Djokovic and committed 75 unforced errors.
There was a small pocket of Canadian fans in the 15,000-seat venue and they were in full voice early as Pospisil easily held serve in the opening game. Pospisil had his serve broken in the fifth game and Djokovic took control.
Djokovic appeared fresh despite a busy travel week and limited practice time. He needed only 28 minutes to win the second set.
“I was forcing it too much and I wasn’t in my own skin,” said Pospisil. “He makes you do that by just being Novak and playing the way he was playing, he maybe forced me to go for a little too much and there was probably a 45-minute period where it probably wasn’t too pretty for my side.”
Pospisil played better in the third set despite being broken in the first game. He held serve the rest of the way but Djokovic was steady and secured the win when Pospisil put a shot into the net.
Canada, which upset Spain and Italy in Vancouver to advance, has never reached the Davis Cup semifinals in the modern era. Serbia, meanwhile, is trying to get back to the final after winning the event in 2010.