Novak Djokovic defeats Cameron Norrie to end Great Britain’s Davis Cup run

An imperious Serbia thoroughly outperformed Great Britain in the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup in Málaga as they advanced to the final four with a 2-0 win on Thursday night.

In the essential opening rubber between the two second seeded singles players, Miomir Kecmanovic performed spectacularly to defeat Jack Draper 7-6(2), 7-6(6) in a high-quality tussle and record the first point for Serbia. Novak Djokovic, the best player in the world, closed off the tie by comfortably defeating Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4 to seal victory for Serbia.

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Despite the ease with which Djokovic closed out the tie, it was not without its controversy as he repeatedly duelled with fans. After blowing a kiss to a British fan following the first set, Djokovic criticised a group of British fans who continued to drum during his post-match interview, drowning out his voice: “Learn how to respect players, learn how to respect people, you shut up, you be quiet,” he said.

The opening encounter represented one of the biggest moments of Draper’s young career – a significant test of his ability to handle the nerves, pressure and an extremely tough opponent on a big occasion with Djokovic looming in the second match. Since the Serbia team lacks a strong doubles player, the opener was also a monumental occasion for Kecmanovic, and the Serb played inspired tennis, barely putting a foot wrong for nearly two hours.

“I have been preparing excellently well,” said Draper. “My training every day has been great. Today I just came up short. I think I gave it all I had mentally. I didn’t do a few things as well as I wanted to, but he played a great match and I think that was Leon’s [Smith – the GB coach] message. It was a positive one. ‘Look, you gave it your all.’ These things happen. That’s the sport. I’ve just got to keep working. That’s it, really.”

With the benefit of choosing between three players ranked in and around the top 50, Laslo Djere, Dusan Lajovic and Kecmanovic, Viktor Troicki, the Serbia captain, opted for the lowest-ranked player of them all. A former junior No 1 and still just 24 years old, Kecmanovic has a higher ceiling than his veteran countrymen and he had as much to prove under pressure as Draper.

Cameron Norrie shows frustration during his defeat to Novak Djokovic
Cameron Norrie shows frustration during his defeat to Djokovic. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters

As they stepped inside the sold-out Palacio de los Deportes, a 9,000-strong audience with an overwhelming British presence, Draper was far from overawed by the occasion as he slammed down three aces with his first three serves.

But Kecmanovic was sharper. As a well-rounded, consistent baseliner and a solid athlete, the Serb soaked up Draper’s pace and spin, he changed directions with ease off both sides and he complemented his superiority from the baseline with precise serving. His consistent returning immediately put Draper under pressure on his serve.

The Briton battled through numerous tough, tight service games just to reach the tie-break. Once there, though, Draper collapsed. Two nervy double-faults proved extremely costly as Kecmanovic remained extremely solid and diligent to close out the set.

Despite the poor climax to the opening set, Draper shrugged off his disappointment and responded well. He held far more comfortably throughout the set and then fought hard to extend the tie-break. Kecmanovic, though, maintained his level and composure until the end.

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“There was definitely a few ups-and-downs in the way I was feeling physically, because that’s what nerves do,” said Draper. “They just take over sometimes. Again, I gave myself the best opportunity to stay in the match. Gave myself chances. I think I got beaten by a better player today, to be honest.”

A week after Djokovic closed off his individual season by winning his fourth tournament in a row at the ATP Finals, he calmly picked up where he left off as he predictably closed off the tie.

In both sets, Djokovic broke Norrie’s serve early and had minimal problems navigating his own service games until the end of each set. Between his precise serving, his returning, defence and how he controlled the baseline, the No 1 overpowered Norrie, who fought hard and performed well but did not have the weapons to consistently make Djokovic uncomfortable.

“I think overall [I] loved the year,” said Smith, the Great Britain Davis Cup captain.

“I think Cameron reminded me last night, ‘Let’s think about where we were, going to Bogota, going through that, then going to Manchester’. Look, we’ve lost in the quarter-finals here, but we’ve won four, lost one this year. It’s a good record. It’s a good year.”

Serbia will meet Italy in the semi-finals on Saturday, with the ATP Finals finalists, Djokovic and Jannik Sinner, due to meet for the third time in 11 days.

Earlier on Thursday, Sinner continued his brilliant form as he led Italy to the semi-finals with a 2-1 win over the Netherlands.