What Serbia lacks in tennis infrastructure it makes up for in raw talent, team captain Bogdan Obradovic said as he labelled his team favourites for next week's Davis Cup final against France in Belgrade.
Serbia will be looking for their first Davis Cup title when they take on the nine-times winners in what will be the biggest tennis event ever staged in the Balkan nation.
"The difference in the tennis infrastructure between the two countries couldn't be starker in France's favour, yet we enter the final as favourites to win because of the individual quality of our players," Obradovic told Reuters in an interview.
"France have the best facilities imaginable and a massive budget to go with events like Roland Garros and other top tournaments, while we have a dozen or so indoor hard courts."
While the likes of Novak Djokovic, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic have put Serbia on the map, Obradovic said the country needs more investment if the talent stream is to continue.
"We need systematic support from the government to live up to our potential in the long term and that means enticing sponsors and profitable companies to invest in tennis," he said.
Obradovic, who coaches upcoming prospects at his academy in Belgrade's Ada sports complex, believes that while 2008 Australian Open champion and twice U.S. Open finalist Djokovic is a hard act to follow, the future can be bright, providing there is investment in facilities.
Ivanovic, who won the 2008 French Open, once described how she hit balls in an empty swimming pool in Belgrade during the winter because there was nowhere else to play.
"There are many talented children in Serbia and I think we have have earned our right to ask for better conditions for future generations," he said.
"I expect that to happen and I am sure the authorities will realise the need to allocate more means to build a stronger infrastructure for one of Serbia's best products," he said.
SPOILT FOR CHOICE
Serbia, who only reached the Davis Cup World Group in 2008, have a plethora of options to field against a weakened French team, who will miss Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and doubles specialist Julien Benneteau through injury.
With Djokovic certain to figure as Serbia's number one singles player, Obradovic is spoilt for choice whether to name in-form Viktor Troicki or the talismanic Janko Tipsarevic alonsgide him in the opening rubbers.
"Troicki has enjoyed a terrific run capped by winning the recent Kremlin Cup in Moscow and while Tipsarevic is a bit inconsistent on the ATP Tour, he is an outstanding Davis Cup player," said Obradovic.
"We have a great team spirit and both of them are raring to go, but the most important thing is that there will be no clash of egos no matter who takes centre stage.
"They are both terrific lads and will support each other. Troicki is our number two player but Tipsarevic was the hero of our 3-2 semi-final win against the Czech Republic."
The flambuoyant Tipsarevic won both his singles against the Czechs, when Djokovic pulled out of the opening rubbers due to fatigue and illness. Any of the three could team up with Nenad Zimonjic for the doubles.
Djokovic described Serbia's run to the final as "unique opportunity that may never happen again" but has had the distraction of the ATP World Tour Finals before he can really focus on the French.
"Playing in a Davis Cup final is the biggest success that my country ever had," he said in London. "I'm managing to control my emotions and my focus towards this tournament first, then I'll think of the Davis Cup."
The punishing schedule, particularly for the likes of Djokovic, will create problems for Obradovic next season, whatever the outcome of the final.
"Even if if we win the title at the first time of asking, our primary objective next season will be to stay in the World Group because I don't know who will play for us," he said.
"I have to spoken to Djokovic and the rest of the team to see what their plans are, as we all need to bear in mind that we must not put too much pressure on the players.
"The draw for next season, which handed us a home tie against India in the first round, offers a great chance to stay in the top flight and should we make that step forward, we will take it one tie at a time from there."
The final is from Dec 3-5.
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