KRALJEVO
World number one Novak Djokovic got hosts Serbia off to a winning start in their Davis Cup World Group first round tie against Croatia on Friday.
Djokovic started both the first and second set with a break easing past 158th-ranked Mate Delic 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in 1hr 30min. Only in the third set did Delic, 21, show some resistance, winning four games, but without threatening the eight-time Grand Slam winner. The 27-year-old Djokovic, whose opponent did not have a single break point, relied on a solid service. "Mate is a talented player with a lot of potential to reach the top in the tennis world, but I'm happy with my performance and that I managed to win," Djokovic said.
In Friday's second tie Viktor Troicki, who returning to the national team after serving a one-year doping suspension, will play Croatia's teen star Borna Coric. Coric, 18, shocked former Wimbledon and US Open champion Andy Murray recently.
Meanwhile, Andreas Seppi beat Andrey Golubev to put Italy level at 1-1 with hosts Kazakhstan in a Davis Cup World Group first round tie in Almaty on Friday.
The 31-year-old Seppi won 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 in what was his first ever meeting with Golubev, the rubber lasting two hours 34 minutes at the hardcourts of the National Tennis Centre. Seppi, currently 35th in the world, broke twice in the opening set to move a set up after 39 minutes. In the second set Seppi broke early again and held onto his advantage to go two sets up.
Golubev stayed in contention by taking the third set on a tiebreak, but Seppi dominated the fourth to level the match scores.
"It was a tense match," Seppi said. "For me it was very important to come into the match rightly and I did it winning two sets from the start. "In the third set I lost focus for a while but managed to come back in the fourth to level the score after the first day."
Earlier Friday Mikhail Kukushkin put Kazakhstan 1-0 up with a straight-set win over Simone Bolelli 7-6 (8/6), 6-1, 6-2 in two hours 22 minutes. The players traded breaks in the opening set, which Kukushkin, who is 58th in the world, won in a tiebreak. In the second Kukushkin moved up a gear breaking his opponent's serve twice to take the set in 43 minutes for a comfortable 2-0 lead.
In the third Kukushkin underlined his domination by producing two more breaks to take the set and the match, sealing the victory with an ace. "To be honest I had been expecting a much tougher match," Kukushkin said. "I didn't expect to win so easy today. But I'm pleased that I managed to conserve my strength and nerves for Sunday's match (against Seppi) which will definitely be much tougher challenge."