By Matt Cronin BOISE, Idaho Apr 6, 2013 (Reuters) - In a shock of the world’s number one doubles team, the patchwork duo of Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac overcame the United States’ Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6 7-6 5-7 4-6 15-13 to give Serbia a 2-1 lead in the Davis Cup quarter finals.
After mulling throwing world number one singles player Novak Djokovic into the doubles, captain Bogdan Obradovic opted instead for Bozoljac, who had only won six tour level doubles matches in his career and had a singles ranking of 338.
But the tall Serbian responded brilliantly, clocking huge serves, groundstrokes and returns in partnership with the experienced Zimonjic to seal victory in four hours and 23 minutes.
”I know that I had that in myself,“ Bozoljac said. ”Through the years, I struggled a lot with injuries and I couldn’t really play consistent so that is the reason why I was not ranked higher.
“But I knew that if I give my 100 percent for one match, I can play on a really high level and I can match up with these good players.”
While the Bryans had lost their last Davis Cup match in the United States victory over Brazil in February, they were favored to beat the Serbs as they came into the match with a 20-3 record in Davis Cup and had won a tour high four doubles titles this year, including their record 13th grand slam at the Australian Open.
But while they staged a furious comeback in third and fourth sets in front of their home crowd, they could not come up with enough clutch play in the deciding set to hold off the Serbs.
The Bryans were two points from winning the contest on three different occasions, but with their backs against the wall, the Serbians stood tall.
With the score at 11-12, 30-30 and former top-ranked doubles player Zimonjic serving, the big Serbian hit two hard serves that produced netted returns by the Bryans to hold.
Mike Bryan had not been broken in the entire contest, but serving at 13-13 on break point, Bozoljac hit a screaming crosscourt backhand winner for the break to 14-13.
The Bryans have two chances to break back in the final game, but Zimonjic shut the door with two booming aces, blasting a huge serve down the middle to seal the match.
He and Bozoljac then hugged and danced around while Djokovic bounced up and down on the sidelines chanting Serbian songs.
“If this isn’t the best performance of all time from me, it certainly is in Davis Cup,” said Zimonjic.
The Serbians ended up with 125 winners to just 80 from the Bryans.
“We’ve seen a lot of people in this competition rise up,” said U.S. captain Jim Courier.
“You look at the numbers next to the (Bozoljac‘s) career, you see the performance today, something doesn’t add up. You clearly see there was some inspiration, chemistry with Nenad on the court, and you say, ‘too good’.”
On Sunday, Djokovic will face top American Sam Querrey in the first match, which will be followed by the final rubber between Serbian Viktor Troicki and John Isner.
Editing by Ian Ransom