Serbia reached the Davis Cup quarter-finals to set up a possible mouthwatering clash between Grand Slam heavyweights Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal while champions Argentina stayed alive.
Serbia, the 2010 champions, took an unassailable 3-0 lead over Russia on Saturday in their World Group opener in Nis when 40-year-old Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki downed Andrey Kuznetsov and Konstantin Kravchuk 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 6-7 (5/7), 6-4.
On Friday, Troicki beat Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (8/6) in the opening singles before Djokovic made it 2-0 when Daniil Medvedev retired with cramps in the fourth set allowing the 12-time major winner to claim a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 1-0 win.
“I have to congratulate Viktor for an excellent match after spending five hours on the court Friday,” said Zimonjic, the Serbia captain.
“It was a massive challenge even though he’s one of the fittest players on tour.”
Djokovic could face Nadal in the last eight in April should five-time champions Spain see off Croatia in Osijek.
Nadal was sitting out the trip to Croatia after reaching the Australian Open final last weekend but would be certain to return to face a Djokovic-inspired Serbia.
However, Croatia were trying their best to ignore the script when they took a 2-1 lead over the Spaniards thanks to Marin Draganja and Nikola Mektic carving out a 6-7, (6/8), 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/5), 2-6, 6-4 win over Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez, the French Open champions.
Croatia, playing without top star Marin Cilic, saw world number 223 Franko Skugor unexpectedly defeat 26th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta on Friday before world number 16 Roberto Bautista Agut levelled the tie overnight by beating Davis Cup debutant Ante Pavic, the world number 486.
Meanwhile, Carlos Berlocq and Leonardo Mayer kept defending champions Argentina in their tie against Italy in Buenos Aires with a marathon 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (9/7) win over Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini.
That made the overall score 2-1 after Paolo Lorenzi and Andreas Seppi had won the opening day singles against an Argentina team missing Juan Martin del Potro and Federico Delbonis, the stars of their 2016 final triumph over Croatia.
Aussies, France in last eight -
On Saturday, Berlocq and Mayer needed six match points to secure their win.
Australia, the 28-time champions, completed a 3-0 drubbing of the Czech Republic in Melbourne when John Peers and Sam Groth breezed past Jiri Vesely and Jan Satral, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
Australia, captained by Lleyton Hewitt, will now host the United States in the quarter-finals on April 7-9.