• Tennis

Novak set to carry Serbia's Davis Cup hopes

ESPN staff
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Djokovic retained his ATP World Tour crown on Monday © Getty Images
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Novak Djokovic's gruelling schedule looks set to continue as he will be required to carry the burden for Serbia against defending champions Czech Republic in the final of the Davis Cup.

Djokovic is on a 22-match unbeaten run, winning four consecutive tournaments, and will need to win both his singles matches if the Serbs are to have any hope of winning the best-of-five series which starts on Friday.

But the world No.2 has already admitted he is 'exhausted' after retaining his ATP World Tour Finals crown on Monday.

The draw for the final has been made and has at least given Djokovic's a day off in between his singles matches, as he faces Radek Stepanek on Thursday and Tomas Berdych on Sunday.

But the weight on his shoulders has been increased after the withdrawral of Janko Tipsarevic on Thursday due to a heel injury, meaning Dusan Lajovic will step up in his place, while Viktor Troicki is still serving a suspension for skipping a blood test in April.

"It's a real drawback for our team that we don't have both Janko and Viktor," said Djokovic. "I hope that I can win the first match, the first point is very important as it could release pressure on Lajovic."

"Stepanek is a very tricky player. He likes to rush to the net and change rhythm of the match."

The final presents a big step up for Lajovic, ranked 117th in the world, having played only once in the Davis Cup and with no major victories against top players on the ATP tour to his name. Lajovic faces Berdych on Friday and then Stapanek on Sunday in the other singles matches taking place at the Belgrade Arena.

And the 23-year-old admits he will have to make the most of home advantage.

"I'm very excited that I'll play on Friday. With the support of the crowd, I could maybe surprise Berdych," he said.

Despite being heavy favourite it will be a tricky opening match for Berdych, who admits he has never watched Lajovic play and need to make changes to his game.

"I will do some scouting before the match," Berdych said. "It is good that this is a best-of-five match and I'll have time to adjust."

Berdych, who has a 13-1 record in Davis Cup doubles with Stepanek, predicted the doubles will decide the winner. Djokovic said that although he has not played many doubles matches in recent years, he would be ready on Saturday if needed.

The draw currently has Zenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac (Serbia) facing Lukas Rosol and Jan Hajek (Czech Republic) in Saturday's doubles rubber.

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