Djokovic eases past Zhang before Serbia prevail past China in decider

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Joined: Nov 2016

Serbia got their United Cup campaign off to a winning start with a 2-1 victory over China, after a gripping mixed doubles decider in Perth.

Novak Djokovic gave Serbia a 1-0 lead after a convincing 6-3 6-2 win over Zhang Zhizhen to begin his 2024 season a winning note.

The world No.1 dispatched Zhang with a mere 74 minutes on the clock in their Group E men’s singles clash in Perth.

Zhang acquitted himself well in the opening exchanges, but the world No. 58 was emphatically broken in the sixth game to go 4-2 down and Djokovic drew first blood after his first set point.

The writing was on the wall after the Chinese player surrendered twice more on his serve to go 3-0 down at the start of the second, before staving off the first match point to claim a hold at 5-2 down.

However, this only prolonged the inevitable, as Djokovic sealed the contest after match point number three to win the second set 6-3.

“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.

“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.”

Zheng Qinwen levelled the overall score at 1-1 after a 6-4 6-2 win over Olga Danilovic, taking the tie into a mixed doubles decider.

The world No.15 overcame a tricky start after losing on her opening serve to go 2-0 down, before immediately breaking back to halve the deficit.

She took control of the set after breaking Danilovic for a second time to move 3-2 ahead, and was halfway to victory after swatting away two break points for the Serb in an enthralling 10th game.

The following set was much more straightforward for the Chinese, as Danilovic lost twice more on her serve and was left the ultimately insurmountable task of arresting a 4-0 deficit.

Zheng got the job done with relative comfort to prevail on her third match point at 6-2.

The tie hinged on the mixed doubles clash featuring Zheng and Zhang against Djokovic and Danilovic.

After a cagey opening with no break point opportunities offered in the first six games, the Serbian duo nudged out in front in the seventh to move 4-3 ahead.

Zheng and Zhang held strong for a crucial hold at 4-5 after managing to quash three set points for Djokovic and Danilovic, but the Serbian duo eventually took the first set on their fourth set point in an absorbing opener.

Their response was emphatic, and they threatened to level the score with a bagel after moving into a 5-0 lead, breaking the Serbian serve twice in the process in a dominant 6-1 scoreline from the Chinese pair.

But they failed to take that momentum into the third set, as Djokovic and Danilovic won seven of the final 10 points to win the decider.

This was a first defeat for China after a 3-0 clean sweep against the Czech Republic on Friday, who Serbia face next in their second and final group fixture on Tuesday.

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