By Ros Satar, in Belgrade
- Dusan Lajovic def. James Ward 6-1 6-3 6-2
- Dom Inglot/Jamie Murray def. Filip Krajinovic/Nenad Zimonjic 6-1 67(2) 6-3 6-4
- GB lead the tie 2-1
BELGRADE, SERBIA – In a bid to get back on track, the weather held for the held over singles to be played, and the doubles sets GB 2-1 ahead going into the tie’s conclusion.
Dusan Lajovic def. James Ward 6-1 6-3 6-2
After Kyle Edmund put the Brits ahead on a rain-sodden day, the fine mist and drizzle finally gave way to bright patches – no more than for Serbia, who drew level with Great Britain as Dusan Lajovic powered past James Ward in straight sets.
It was a nervy start for the Brit, who was pulled from Newport to fill in for the injured Dan Evans, as the Serbian delighted the vocal fans with an immediate break, before pulling ahead commandingly in the first set.
It seemed to be the story of the match – break early and hold on, as in the second set, he jumped out again to a 4-1 lead, before a brief flurry of resistance from Ward saw him make this a bit more competitive, but maybe the gap was a little tough to close.
It looked as though Ward was going to drag Lajovic into a long battle in the third set, but could not quite summon up the break points he needed to start one of his legendary come-backs, promptly losing his serve.
Once on the back foot, it was hard to elicit any kind of momentum as the Serbs drew level in the tie, with a straight sets win.
A dejected Ward admitted: “The tactics we had set up were pretty much completely opposite to everything he did in the first set, which is credit to him. And then change it around and started to get back into the match but it’s tough.
“It’s one of the heaviest clay courts I’ve ever played on. It definitely doesn’t suit my game. But yeah, he was very good today.”
GB Captain Leon Smith admitted at the end of a disrupted first day that the tie was very much on a knife-edge, and could go either way.
Ward said, of the prospect of a decisive fifth rubber: “I’ve been there, done it before and would love to again but obviously hopefully the guys get it done before that and that it doesn’t have to come to it but if it does I’ll be ready to go again tomorrow.”
Dom Inglot/Jamie Murray def. Filip Krajinovic/Nenad Zimonjic 6-1 67(2) 6-3 6-4
A lot depends though on who they play, having replaced a very out of sorts Janko Tipsarevic with a potentially even more rusty Filip Krajinovic in the doubles, partnering Nenad Zimonjic.
The Brits started superbly, leaping out to a 3-1 lead, and never allowing the Serbians a chance to advance further. But with the weather improving (rain, what rain?) and the court drying out and even potentially speeding up, the Serbs were right back in it, staying toe-to-toe with the Brits before completely dominating them in the second set tie-break.
The nerves continued to bite, with the Brits finally making good on their fifth break point in the game for a 5-3 lead before serving it out for a 2-1 lead in the match.
They started with a break in the fourth set, and fended off one against them at the tail end of the set, before finally converting their second match point.
For Inglot it was his first rubber won in three attempts but he has always been a stalwart member of the team in all the ties he has been originally named in.
He said: “Being part of the team is fantastic but you always want to get that first win and I’m just so glad. You feel that you’ve really kind of contributed in a way that get a point for the team.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’d still take helping out and being part of the team any day of the week, but it’s just a nice feeling to, with Jamie get a rubber for the team.”
Murray said: “I think we were a bit unfortunate not to win the second set, We had all the chances in the set, they didn’t have anything, and then they played a few good points in the tie-break but I think we both felt like you know if we started more points than maybe we’d done in the second set then we’d have a god chance to get our breaks of serve.
“We managed to do that in the third and fourth sets. We were holding serve pretty comfortably throughout the match, I think we only had a couple of break points against us on my serve really. I don’t think they really got close to Dom except maybe in the last game.”
Smith has said it many times – there are now two chances to go forward, and although he admitted that Ward had not played his best, a match like that where he had to work hard would help start the process of sharpening up.
Kyle Edmund v Dusan Lajovic- First meeting
In a first time meeting between the pair, it may all come down to experience – Lajovic is a six-time nominated player with an a 5-4 record now with his win over Ward.
Confidence had been high with Edmund’s first win, but in fairness, the ailing Tipsarevic was replaced in the doubles and it remains to be seen who could face Ward if there needs to be a fifth rubber.
The Serb posses a more aggressive one-handed backhand, and whatever the tactical work had been done ahead of his match with Ward, he stepped up his game,
That being said, Edmund’s forehand was firing well in the unsettled conditions on Friday so it will be all eyes on the elements,. The better weather might be a bit more of leveller than we would like.
The Serb reckoned: “I see it as a very hard match. He has a great forehand, you can’t really see where he’s going to hit the ball. This will definitely be the part to neutralise.
“But on the other hand if I keep the same level I have got chances to play a good match. It’s going to be a match with a lot of nerves and we’ll see how we are going to handle the pressure both of us.”
James Ward v Janko Tipsarevic or Filip Krajinovic
Ward has been on the losing end of his one encounter with Tipsarevic five years ago in Eastbourne and has never met Krajinovic in battle. The assumption though is that Tipsarevic has been rested specifically for a potential fifth rubber.
His most recent success was ousting Canada from the 2013 semi-finals, beating Vasek Pospisil in straight sets, raised aloft as a national hero.
And with the marching song (the Drina Battle Song, a World War I composition just FYI) repeatedly on the DJ’s playlist throughout the doubles, we might end up hearing a whole load of it again if it comes down to the wire.
Ward looked ill at ease when his tactics were not working, and although he made a better fist of it in the second set, he will need to be far quicker off the mark to put either of the two ailing Serbs under pressure, Krajinovic had been off the tour since losing to Edmund in the Rome Challenger final at the start of May, but he looked to be gaining his confidence on the court in the doubles.
However, much like Tipsarevic, Ward knows what it takes to bring the final win home. Will Andy Murray be as talismanic as we all hope he can be? Time for the [Ivan] Lendl-Effect to be paid forward.
Play starts at 3pm (2pm BST).
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