BELGRADE (AFP) - Novak Djokovic suffered his first Davis Cup defeat in five years when he and Serbian teammate Nenad Zimonjic lost their doubles rubber to Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov on Saturday.
The 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 7-5 scoreline gave Kazakhstan a 2-1 lead ahead of the reverse singles on Sunday where the winner will go on to face either defending champions Great Britain or Japan in the quarter-finals.
On Sunday, world number one Djokovic will face Kazakhstan’s top player Mikhail Kukushkin where he will try to keep the tie alive.
The final singles is due to feature Viktor Troicki against Nedovyesov.
Djokovic last lost in the tournament in 2011 – against Juan Martin del Potro through a retirement in the semi-finals that Serbia lost 3-2 to Argentina and alongside Zimonjic in a 4-1 win over Sweden in the first round that year.
“Their (Kazakhstan’s) quality was extraordinary today. They were better in crucial moments,” Djokovic told reporters after Saturday’s match.
“We were trying, fighting, I believe we could have played better... The second and third set were uncertain, there was a big fight, but this is their (Kazakhstan’s) deserved victory.” The 28-year-old Djokovic voiced confidence ahead of Sunday’s matches.
“We know what we have to do, we know how to prepare for the thrid day. We have reason to believe in both victories since we are the favourites, both Viktor and me.” Serbia coach Bogdan Obradovic echoed that view.
“Tomorrow we have to focus on singles and be ready. We are still favourites,” he said.
In the opening match of the World Group tie on Friday, Djokovic, playing for the first time in front of his home fans since the Davis Cup against Croatia in March last year, easily defeated Nedovyesov, the world number 200, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3.
Although suffering from minor problems with his left shoulder, Djokovic appeared recovered from an eye infection which forced him to retire from his Dubai ATP quarter-final last week, ending his streak of 17 successive finals.
But in the second singles, Kazakhstan fought back to level 1-1, as Kukushkin, the world 79, defeated world number 23 Troicki 7-5, 6-2, 6-4.
Serbia won the Davis Cup in 2010, led by Djokovic.