Serbia captain Viktor Troicki has challenged his younger players to step up in Valencia as they look to reach the Knockout Stage of the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals without their talisman Novak Djokovic.
Troicki, who himself shot to fame when he won the all-important point to deliver a first Davis Cup title for his country in 2010, called on his players to seize the chance to make a name for themselves.
“With his [Djokovic’s] presence it’s much easier,” explained Troicki. “He was there for our team so many times and he helped us win many matches, but the future is on the younger players and they need to get ready and take the responsibility and get those important wins for the team.
“The boys deserve to be in the team. In the future it’s going to be more and more matches that Novak is not with us. These players need to bring their best and do the best for the team.”
The future is on the younger players and they need to get ready and take the responsibility and get those important wins for the team
One such player who will be leading his side into battle for the first time is Miomir Kecmanovic. The former junior world No. 1 made his Davis Cup debut in Madrid at last year’s finals and fell to an agonising loss against Mikhail Kukushkin 7-6(5) 4-6 7-6(11).
The 23-year-old explained that Djokovic had been in touch with the team, saying: “He [Djokovic] couldn’t make it this time, but he’s been with us for so many matches. He’s going to be supporting us. He wants us to win. He wants to join us [in Malaga for the Final 8]. We’ll try to deliver that.”
Looking ahead to their opening tie against hosts Spain on Wednesday, Kecmanovic added: “With Spain it’s going to be difficult because they’ll have the home crowd and, obviously, they’re all good so it’s going to be tough. But we have some good players and we’re playing well so hopefully we can get off to a good start.”
Captain Troicki remains sceptical whether newly-crowned world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz will feature in Wednesday’s tie given his recent heroics at the US Open in New York.
“I would like to congratulate Carlos on winning his first Slam and becoming the youngest No. 1 in the world,” Troicki said. “It’s a huge, huge achievement. He really deserved it. He played great tennis this year. It’s phenomenal to see such a great and hardworking player achieve such a good result so early in his career.
“I am not sure when he is coming. It will be very different if he’s playing or not on Wednesday. But we’ll be ready. If he’s in the team on Wednesday, then we’ll have to prepare for that. In case he’s not playing, then Spain have other options.”
All the experience that you get in Davis Cup, it defines you as a player
Dusan Lajovic, who made his Davis Cup final debut in 2013 against Czech Republic, said that experience in Davis Cup counts for more than form or ranking.
“First time I played was 10 years ago and it went in the blink of an eye that period,” said Lajovic. “All the experience that you get in Davis Cup, it defines you as a player.
“It’s never easy to play for your country because you don’t just play for yourself, you play for your team-mates and you play for the people of your country.
“Coming from a country like Serbia, people love to watch the national team and to support us and I feel like this kind of experience you don’t get anywhere else in tennis so the more experience you have the easier it is.”