Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Austria's Dennis Novak (not pictured) during the men's singles group stage match between Serbia and Austria at the Davis Cup tennis tournament in Innsbruck, Austria, on November 26, 2021. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)

Djokovic loses from triple match point up for first time

In Malaga, Spain, Novak Djokovic had three chances to defeat Italy and lead Serbia to the Davis Cup final. However, Janik Sinner turned the tables by saving three match points and bringing Italy back from the brink of defeat. Before that, in the Davis Cup singles matches, Sinner had leveled the semifinal 1-1 against Djokovic, who had a streak of 21 consecutive wins in the competition until Saturday.

Following this, Sinner defeated Djokovic again in the decisive rubber, securing Italy’s comeback with a 2-1 victory. This marked Italy’s entry into the final for the first time since 1998.

Djokovic, who had an impressive season, had reached the Davis Cup final for Serbia a decade after winning three more major titles, bringing his Grand Slam tally to a record 24. Djokovic expressed his disappointment, saying, “Personally, it’s a big disappointment for me because I take responsibility. Obviously, I had three match points, and I was very close to winning it. When you lose for your country, the bitter feeling is even stronger.”

On the other hand, Miomir Kecmanovic secured Serbia’s lead in the semifinal by defeating Lorenzo Musetti 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-1. Djokovic then led Serbia to the final by facing Sinner in the second singles match in Milan.

However, Sinner, ranked fourth, defeated Djokovic 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 in a closely contested match, marking their third singles encounter in 12 days. Sinner had defeated Djokovic in the ATP Finals group stage last week, reversing the outcome of Djokovic’s victory over Sinner in the final, where Djokovic had secured his record-breaking seventh ATP Finals title.

Following his singles victory, Sinner said, “Is it the match of my life? I don’t know, but it’s certainly very important.” He emphasized the significance of team competitions, stating, “It helps a lot that the last competition of the season is a team competition because you get a lot of energy from your teammates, and even the crowd is different. I really enjoyed playing today. It was a fantastic match. At the end of the match, I was genuinely happy that the team managed to stay in the decisive doubles.”

In the final on Sunday, Italy will face Australia on the same indoor hard court in southern Spain. Italy had won its only Davis Cup title in 1976, with the last final appearance in 1998. Sinner’s victory came just six days after he avenged his loss to Djokovic in the ATP Finals, securing a turnaround in fortunes.

In the Davis Cup, Djokovic’s last singles loss occurred in the 2011 semifinal against Argentina, where he retired against Juan Martin del Potro. Djokovic’s previous singles defeat in the Davis Cup was in 2009.

In the first singles match, Musetti took an early lead, winning the first set in a tiebreaker after overcoming an initial break. However, as the match progressed, Kecmanovic grew stronger, securing a one-sided third set to claim his first one-sided victory in three career encounters against Musetti.

In the second singles match, Sinner made a strong start, winning consecutive breaks with a 4-1 lead in the first set. Djokovic then responded by breaking Sinner’s serve twice in the second set and playing a decisive game.

In the third set, Djokovic had five break opportunities, including match points, but Sinner saved them all. Before Sinner took the lead, Djokovic squandered a match point and lost his next service game, falling behind 6-5, ultimately exiting the match.

Sinner secured the decisive point in the doubles rubber when he aced Djokovic with a big serve that Djokovic netted.

Congratulating Italy on qualifying for the final, Djokovic said, “They deserved it. They played really well, especially Janik, both in the singles against me and in the doubles as well. He didn’t miss a single difficult shot throughout the match.”

During a tense moment in the doubles match, when Italian fans were cheering and teasing Djokovic, he gestured towards the crowd with both hands as if demanding more noise. On Thursday, after helping Serbia defeat Britain, Djokovic had told British fans to “shut up” and “stay quiet” as they had started playing drums during his on-court interview.

On Thursday, Djokovic became the most successful Serbian player in competition, securing his 44th win by defeating Cameroon Norrie and surpassing all previous Serbian athletes.

On Friday, Australia defeated Finland in the second semifinal match. Last year, Australia lost in the final to Canada.

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