Djokovic eyes 2010 encore
World No 1 leads Serbian challenge against Canada; Czechs hope to defend title
Winning the 2010 Davis Cup for Serbia proved the launch pad for Novak Djokovic to reach the top of the men's game and the 26-year-old hopes another epic run will have a similar effect.
Looking upbeat and raring to go just a few days after a crushing US Open defeat by Rafael Nadal, Djokovic was named to play singles on the opening day of the semifinal against Canada in the cavernous Belgrade Arena.
Any fatigue from his New York battles and the long-haul flight home will be soothed by the prospect of playing in front of the partisan home crowd, the world number one said.
"I am tired and jet-lagged but also as inspired and motivated as ever to play for my country," Djokovic told a news conference after Thursday's draw which pitted him against Vasek Pospisil in Friday's opening singles rubber.
"It's not the first time I've had only two days to recuperate for a Davis Cup tie after the US Open and the fact that we will be playing at home for the first time in two years will galvanise us to perform.
"The 2010 triumph was a stepping stone for all of us in terms of our individual careers and that's why we are really looking forward to it."
Following their epic 3-2 win over France in the 2010 final, which produced a soccer-like atmosphere in a jam-packed arena, Serbia suffered their first loss at the venue in the 2011 semis.
An ailing Djokovic, who was nursing a ribcage injury, retired against Juan Martin del Potro in the reverse singles, handing Argentina an unassailable 3-1 lead as he collapsed to the ground in anguish.
It was an anti-climax to his memorable US Open final win against Nadal that season, the most successful in the Serb's career as he also claimed the Australian Open and Wimbledon to go with a myriad of Masters Series titles.
"I am fit this time and I don't think adapting to red clay will be a problem because I've done it before," he said of the specially-prepared clay surface.
Janko Tipsarevic has returned to the Serbian squad after a 16-month absence and faces the big-serving Milos Raonic in Friday's second singles rubber. Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac play Belgrade-born Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil in Saturday's doubles, while Djokovic locks horns with world No 11 Raonic and Tipsarevic clashes with Pospisil in Sunday's reverse singles.
US Open doubles champion Radek Stepanek faces Argentina's Juan Monaco in the opening singles of the Czech Republic's Davis Cup semifinal on Friday as the defending champions bid to reach a third final in five years.
World number five Tomas Berdych will then take on Argentine Leonardo Mayer in the second of the opening day's matches in Prague as the Czechs play in front of a home crowd for the first time this season.
Czech talisman Stepanek won the decisive match of the 2012 final against Spain to earn his country the Cup for the first time as an independent nation in Prague last November.
The 34-year-old, who had neck surgery in January, comes into the competition off the back of winning the men's doubles title with Leander Paes at Flushing Meadows last weekend.
"Physically, I have no problem," news website idnes.cz quoted Stepanek as saying. "Three days (of matches) have never been a problem. It won't be a problem now."
Argentina, runners-up to Spain in 2011, were beaten by the Czechs in Buenos Aires at the same stage last year and head into the semis without world number seven Juan Martin Del Potro.
For the second singles rubber, Argentine captain Martin Jaite has surprisingly turned to the lowest ranked player on the team, world number 93 Mayer.
"I had four good players and I believe that Leo will play great," Jaite was reported as saying by news agency CTK.
For Saturday's doubles match, Czechs Lukas Rosol and Jiri Vesely are pencilled in to face Carlos Berlocq and Horacio Zeballos. However, the Czechs are likely to turn instead to Stepanek and Berdych.