Serbia have been bundled out of the Davis Cup after an agonising exit at the hands of Russia in Madrid.
World No.2 Novak Djokovic levelled the tie with an impressive 6-3 6-3 victory over Karen Khachanov in singles on Friday after Andrey Rublev had thumped Filip Krajinovic 6-1 6-2.
With the tie coming down to a deciding doubles rubber, Djokovic was subbed in to partner Viktor Troicki against Khachanov and Rublev, but it was the Russians who came out on top 6-4 4-6 7-6 (10-8).
Serbia had three match points but could not take any of them, with Troicki scooping a horrible volley long on the third one, and Russia made them pay to reach the last four for the first time since 2008 with a 6-4 4-6 7-6 (10-8) victory.
A distraught Troicki, who won the deciding rubber in the 2010 final, blamed himself, saying: “I probably feel the worst ever.
“I never experienced such a moment in my career, in my life. And I let my team down, and I apologise to them.
“We had chances to finish it. We didn’t do it. I messed up in the crucial moments.”
“It hurts really badly,” Djokovic added.
“These kinds of matches happen once in maybe forever. That’s it. The season is done and we’re turning the next page.”
Grab the tissues, this is an emotional one to watch 😢
Hear from @nenadzim after Serbia’s loss, describing his team as “The Golden Generation”
— Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals (@DavisCupFinals) November 22, 2019
The Russians converted on their first match point to put the team back in the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time since 2008 where they will face Canada – victors over Australia the previous evening – on Saturday.
Khachanov and Rublev, who have played all the rubbers between them this tournament in the absence of US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev, fell to the court in an embrace at the moment of victory after beating the Serbs.
“Both teams had a lot of chances,” said Rublev.
“It was like a coin toss, and we won this coin toss.”
In the third quarter-final, Dan Evans ended his losing run at Davis Cup finals in Madrid with victory over Jan-Lennard Struff to send Great Britain through to the semi-finals for the third time in five years.
Evans had lost his first two singles matches against Dutchman Robin Haase and Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan from a set up but refused to accept the same fate against Germany and world No.35 35 Struff.
With Andy Murray, who was again left out of the side, cheering on from the sidelines, Evans withstood pressure in the third set to come through a deciding tie-break and win 7-6 (8-6) 4-6 7-6 (7-2).
Coupled with another impressive win by Kyle Edmund, who defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 7-5, Evans’ victory was enough to seal the tie for Britain without the need for a deciding doubles rubber.