PARIS: Novak Djokovic suffered his first Davis Cup defeat in five years on Saturday as Serbia slipped 2-1 down to Kazakhstan while Andy and Jamie Murray gave defending champions Great Britain a 2-1 lead over Japan.
World number one Djokovic and 39-year-old Nenad Zimonjic lost their doubles rubber to Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov in Belgrade in the first round tie.
The 6-3, 7-6 (3), 7-5 scoreline gave Kazakhstan a 2-1 lead ahead of the reverse singles on Sunday where the winner will go on to face either Britain or Japan in July’s quarter-finals.
On Sunday, Djokovic will play Mikhail Kukushkin when he will try to keep the tie alive for the 2010 champions. The final singles is due to feature Viktor Troicki against Nedovyesov.
“Kazakhstan’s quality was extraordinary today. They were better in crucial moments,” admitted Djokovic.
“But we know what we have to do, we know how to prepare for the thrid day. We have reason to believe in both victories since we are the favourites — both Viktor and me.”
In Birmingham, the Murray brothers edged Britain closer to the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka and Yakutaka Uchiyama.
Just as in their title triumph over Belgium in November in what was Britain’s first Davis Cup success in 79 years, the brothers played a starring role.
It was a fifth win in five Davis Cup outings for the Murrays who didn’t face a break point on Saturday.
The win gave the hosts a 2-1 lead and world number two Andy Murray can seal the tie on Sunday when he faces Japan’s top player Kei Nishikori, ranked number six, in the first reverse singles.