PARIS: Novak Djokovic survived an injury scare and battled back from a set and a break down to help Serbia take a 2-0 lead over Russia in the Davis Cup World Group tie on Friday.
Twelve-time major winner Djokovic, just one of two of the world’s top 15 playing in the first round this weekend, dropped the first set and was 0-3 down in the second against promising 20-year-old Daniil Medvedev in Nis.
Djokovic, looking to rebuild his confidence after a shock second round exit at the Australian Open, needed first-set treatment on his right shoulder before recovering for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 lead.
Medvedev dropped the opening game of the fourth set and then retired with cramps.
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Earlier, world number 37 Viktor Troicki had given 2010 champions Serbia a winning start, downing 52nd-ranked Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (8/6) in a 4hr 30min marathon.
“The pain I had prevented me from playing the points as I wanted to,” said Djokovic. “But it’s a good victory and we are in a very good position.”
The winners of the tie will face either five-time champions Spain or Croatia in the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, Argentina endured a traumatic start to their title defence when they slumped 2-0 down to Italy despite the fervent support of Diego Maradona.
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Playing without Juan Martin del Potro and Federico Delbonis, the stars of their 2016 final victory over Croatia, the South Americans were outclassed at the Parque Sarmiento in Buenos Aires.
A crowd of 2,000, including football icon Maradona, failed to inspire Guido Pella who lost to veteran Paolo Lorenzi, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
Andreas Seppi, a late call-up for the ill Fabio Fognini, then made it 2-0 with a 6-1, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (8/6) win over Carlos Berlocq who was celebrating his 34th birthday.
The winners of the tie will next face either Germany or Belgium, who are 1-1 in Frankfurt.
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