Davis Cup Finals 2023: Four key takeaways from Great Britain’s defeat to Serbia
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Great Britain's time at the Davis Cup has come to an end in the quarter-finals, courtesy of two standout wins in the singles.
Here are a few of our key takeaways from the entertaining quarter-final battle:
Fast courts favouring the servers in Malaga
There was a lot of talk coming into this tie about the courts and how the ball has been coming through low and fast – just what you want on your serve, and so it proved to be.
In the first rubber between Draper and Kecmanovic, there wasn’t a break in sight, and even when facing break points and set points in the first set, the Brit heavily relied on his big first serve to dig himself out of trouble.
Kecmanovic won an impressive 82% of points off his first serve (41/50), while Draper won 78% (43/55), which just goes to show the level of advantage on offer when the serve did land.
Norrie commented ahead of his rubber with Djokovic how well the world No.1 had been serving at the Nitto ATP Finals and he wasn’t wrong. Despite a promising performance from the Brit, Norrie only manages to win eight points against the Serbian’s serve, who also racked up eight aces across both sets.
Djokovic proves why he’s the best returner in the game
All that being said, we were also reminded once again on Thursday night just how incredible and devastating Djokovic can be on the return of the serve.
Djokovic was the only player to clinch a break all night – taking the lead early in both sets – and continued to pile the pressure onto Norrie.
When Norrie was unable to make his first serve, Djokovic was there to make him pay – winning 55% of points off the Brit’s second (12/22).
The Serbian is ranked fifth on the ATP Tour this season for return service games won (28.8%) and he showed his quality throughout the contest, finishing the match with 40% of points won on the return (30/75) to Norrie’s 17% (8/48).
Norrie shows fighting spirit
As he said in his pre-match press conference, Norrie faced the most difficult challenge in tennis on Thursday night, taking on who many may consider, the greatest player of all time in a tournament he is so desperate to win for a second time in his career.
With the odds stacked against him and coming into the match after a couple of weeks off the tour, Norrie put in a never-say-die performance in front of the adoring British fans.
Despite being broken twice, against an impressive returning display from the Serbian, Norrie also saved a further 10 break points including a lengthy game at 3-1 down in the second to keep his hopes alive. The Brit's level only seemed to keep rising throughout the second set, but unable to get the all-important break back, he couldn't find a way back against the 36-year-old.
Norrie has had a difficult run of form of late but will be encouraged by the way he competed and challenged the world No.1 playing at the top of his game right now. There’s plenty for him to be excited for in 2024.
Errors give Kecmanovic advantage in opening rubber
Draper’s opener against Miomir Kecmanovic proved to be one of the contests of the tournament so far. Despite being a surprise call up to play the rubber against the 21-year-old Brit, Kecmanovic brought his A-game and both players went at each other tooth and nail in a physical battle.
With both sets coming down to two tie-breaks, it was a question of which player would blink first and unfortunately for the Brits, Kecmanovic’s consistency proved the difference.
Across both sets Draper racked up 52 unforced errors to Kecmanovic’s 16, which just goes to show the level of consistency the British No.4 was fighting against. The young Brit hit two double faults in the first set breaker to give the Serbian an unassailable lead and then in the second, serving for a 7-6 lead, his forehand drifted wide into the tramlines as Kecmanovic wrapped up the win.
By all accounts, Draper looked very sharp and played some unbelievable tennis against the world No.55, but ultimately just came up short in clinical moments against the Serbian playing arguably his best match of the season so far.