Cameron Norrie has said he will view Novak Djokovic as “just another player” when he leads the British team against Serbia in the Davis Cup “Final 8” stage on Thursday. A place in the semi-finals is up for grabs for the winning nation.
“I’m going to be myself, give it my all and take it to him,” said Norrie, Britain’s No. 1. “It’s a great privilege to play against him, to compete against him, especially in the Davis Cup.” I’ve already been in a few played against him in big games.
“I can barely wait for it. It’s a big challenge and I think we’re all ready to play against Serbia. We’re excited to get out there, at the end of the day he’s just another player and I’ll try and give it my all.”
After narrowly progressing from the group stage in Manchester with a full team, Great Britain suffered serious setbacks before the quarter-final round in Málaga. Dan Evans and Andy Murray, the British numbers 2 and 3 in singles, were both eliminated from the competition.
The absence of even a single British top 100 player would have meant almost certain defeat a decade or so ago, but it is a reflection of the squad’s current strength that it still boasts a strong squad with significant potential. Murray and Evans were replaced by Joe Salisbury, the recent US Open and ATP Finals doubles champion, and Wimbledon doubles champion Neal Skupski. Liam Broady, who recently reached the top 100 for the first time, completes the team.
“The advantage of this is that everyone knows where they stand,” said Leon Smith, the Great Britain captain. “There’s no confusion about who could be playing or waiting, and tap me on the shoulder to say, ‘You’re in, you’re not in.’ There is none of that. I think that can work in our favor.”
Norrie will be looking for the best win of his career against the best player in the world, but the more likely scenario is that the clash between each team’s second-best players determines the tie and the pressure is on Jack Draper to record a lone win. The 21-year-old has been in great form recently, winning an ATP Challenger event and then reaching his first ATP final in two weeks.
Serbia has a wealth of talented top 60 singles players, including Laslo Djere, Dusan Lajovic and Miomir Kecmanovic, all former top 30 players. Number 33 Djere played an important role in Serbia’s qualification for the quarter-finals and the athletic 28-year-old appears to be the likely opponent for Draper. Serbia would clearly prefer to win both singles matches against weaker opponents than fight their way through a crucial doubles competition.
“We are a team that, as you can see here, has no doubles specialists,” Djokovic said. “We focus on singles, but when it comes to doubles, we are also ready to play in different combinations and give everything.”
For Djokovic, the turnaround has been clear since defeating Jannik Sinner in straight sets and winning a record seventh title at the ATP Finals. Instead of celebrating a spectacular end to his individual season in Turin, he found himself on a flight here less than a day later to prepare for the final event of the year.
“I said many months ago, actually at the beginning of the season, that the Davis Cup was and is and always will be one of my biggest goals this season,” Djokovic said. “Hopefully I can contribute to a win.”
In any case, this will be a momentous occasion. Of the four quarter-finals, all expected to be well attended, Serbia-Great Britain was the most active. Up to 5,000 British fans are expected at the stadium on Thursday, including both people living in and around Malaga and those traveling from abroad. A prominent Serbian presence is also expected at the sold-out 9,000-seat Palacio de los Deportes.