Team Serbia, led by world number one Novak Djokovic, made its inaugural appearance at the United Cup, an international team event, with a solid tie triumph over Team China at RAC Arena on Sunday night in Perth, Australia.
The players representing Team Serbia and China celebrated 2024 on court at RAC Arena in Perth, Australia, just before midnight and after the former emerged victorious 2-1 by earning the mixed doubles match.
Contesting his first match of a new season, world number one Novak Djokovic picked up where he left off, continuing his impressive run of form to sail past World No. 58 Zhang Zhinzhen 6-3, 6-2 after one hour and 12 minutes, handling his country a 1-0 advantage over ninth seed Team China.
After his opening match, the 24-time Grand Slam champion commented: “It’s great to be back in Perth. It’s been ten years since I’ve been in Perth, and this arena is definitely one of the nicest – from inside and outside, that I have played in.”
In his debut at the United Cup, a combined ATP-WTA international event featuring an 18-nation star-studded field battling for the title, Djokovic, who did not face a breakpoint throughout the contest, won 86 percent of the first serve points, converting three of seven breakpoint opportunities.
Assessing his performance, the 36-year-old outlined: “I was a little bit rusty in the beginning, a little bit out of rhythm in the first five or six games, but it’s normal. When you don’t play an official match for over a month, it obviously takes a little bit of time to get the engines going, and he was serving well.”
Adding: “I think the serve was great on my part whenever I needed to get myself out of trouble at 15/15 or 30/30 in my service games, I found a good serve.”
Then, it was time for the women’s singles match to take the spotlight, and young star Zheng Qinwen did not disappoint, hitting the court knowing a win was crucial to keep her country’s chances alive in the tie against the Serbians.
Under pressure, Qinwen, 21, overcame Olga Danilovic with a 6-4, 6-2 win after one hour and 37 minutes, setting level to force a doubles decider.
Djokovic joined forced with Danilovic to face the Zhinzhen-Qinwen duo, notching the first set 6-4.
However, the Chinese pair that the day before defeated reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova and Jiri Lehecka to seal a perfect score over the fifth-seeded Czech Republic, bounced back against Djokovic and Danilovic to take the second set, forcing a deciding doubles tiebreaker.
All in all, the Serbian teammates prevailed with a 6-4, 1-6, 10-6 victory to clinch their Group E inaugural tie, celebrating New Year’s Eve with the spectators cheering for their respective teams in the stands.
In her on-court interview, Danilovic said: “This was on my No. 1 bucket list, to play with Novak and to win. I’m so happy. Thanks to everyone for staying and being with us here on New Year’s Eve.”
“This was an incredible match. I know I gave my all, and Im so happy to finish 2023 like this.”
Despite falling 1-2, China tops Group E, holding a 4-2 lead, followed by Serbia 2-1.
On Tuesday, Djokovic’s squad will play Czech Republic, which stands in third place with a 0-3 score.