BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia’s decision to leave Novak Djokovic out of the doubles rubber of their Davis Cup final against Czech Republic was “like leaving a Ferrari in the garage”, victorious opponent Radek Stepanek said on Sunday.
The Czechs wrapped up a 3-2 win to retain their title thanks to Stepanek’s crushing straight-sets demolition of the inexperienced Dusan Lajovic in the decisive rubber.
The match, however, hinged on the outcome of the doubles with Djokovic winning both his singles ties and Stepanek, along with stand-in captain Vladimir Safarik, said they were surprised the world number two was rested.
“We expected him to play but that was their decision and we just focused on beating whoever was on the other side of the net,” Safarik, deputizing for the ill Jaroslav Navratil, told a news conference.
In Djokovic’s absence, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek romped to a 6-2 6-4 7-6(4) win over Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac to take a 2-1 lead heading into the final day.
Serbia were already weakened after losing Janko Tipsarevic to a foot injury and Viktor Troicki who was banned for missing a blood test in April.
“We only had so many fit and eligible players to choose from and although I must take responsibility for the outcome as the decision maker, I have no regrets about the team selection in any of the rubbers,” Serbia captain Bogdan Obradovic said.
“Missing two second-choice players was too big a blow and we just couldn’t do more although we tried to cope with the tough situation as best we could. The positive thing is that we have expanded our Davis Cup team and we will keep faith in our new arrivals.”
Writing by Toby Davis in London; editing by Clare Fallon