Novak Djokovic and his Seriban teammate Nikola Cacic. (Adam Jolie / Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic and Nikola Cacic lost a decisive tie-break in their rubber double as Serbia suffered a shock loss to Germany in the Davis Cup final, while Daniil Medvedev helped the Russian Tennis Federation to gain a first victory.
World number one Djokovic equalized Serbia in their second group stage game by beating Jan-Lennard Struff after Filip Krajinovic’s loss to Dominik Koepfer.
But the 20-time Grand Slam singles champion and Cacic lost 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 7-6 (7/5) to Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz, who crossed the line on their third. match point in Innsbruck.
Matches in Austria are being played behind closed doors due to new coronavirus restrictions in the country.
Germany will advance to the Group F quarter-finals if they can beat Austria on Sunday, which would leave Serbia waiting to see if they progress among the top two finalists.
Djokovic hopes to cap a brilliant season, which has seen him only miss a Grand Slam calendar with a loss to Medvedev in the US Open final, helping his country win the Davis Cup for the first time since 2010.
The Russians, among the favorites for the title, got off to a perfect start with a 3-0 victory over Ecuador.
World number five Andrey Rublev overcame a second set failure against 291st Roberto Quiroz to win 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in the first set in Madrid.
Medvedev then ensured his side would win the draw, beating Emilio Gomez 6-0, 6-2 in less than an hour.
Gomez was cheered by the crowds when he finally stepped onto the set in Game 8.
“I was ready for this,” said the world number two. “I wanted it to stay clean from the first to the last point of the game.
“I’m really happy to bring a point to the team.”
Rublev and Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev completed the white by taking the rubber double against Gonzalo Escobar and Diego Hidalgo 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Italy became the first team to reach the last eight, confirming their victory over the United States by beating Colombia to finish first in Group E.
Lorenzo Sonego hit back to beat Nicolas Mejia 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-2, before Jannik Sinner dismissed Daniel Elahi Galan 7-5, 6-0.
Earlier, Britain’s number one Cameron Norrie won the game against France in the second singles match, beating Arthur Rinderknech 6-2, 7-6 (10/8) in Great Britain’s first draw.
Norrie, ranked 12th in the world, trailed 4-1 in the tie-break before rebounding to secure a match point at 6-5.
The 71st-ranked Rinderknech saved him but then let two set points slip away before Norrie took the rubber on his second match point.
“For me it’s amazing to be back on the team playing for my country,” said Norrie, who was in her third Davis Cup draw.
“It’s also good to prove myself again, keep the pressure on and keep playing big games.”
Rinderknech then helped Mahut keep his slim hopes of securing one of the top two second places by outscoring Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski 6-1, 6-4.
Dan Evans gave Great Britain a good start by beating Adrian Mannarino 7-5, 6-4.
Kazakhstan could be a surprise quarter-finalist if they beat a severely weakened Canadian team on Sunday, after claiming a 2-1 victory over Sweden.
The Swedish singles duo of brothers Elias and Mikael Ymer looked on their way to winning their second straight game after knocking out Canada 3-0 in Game 1.
Elias passed Mikhail Kukushkin in straight sets 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
Younger brother Mikael looked well placed in a setup and 4-4 in the second against the talented but unpredictable Alexander Bublik.
The world number 36, however, woke up and produced mind-blowing tennis to roll out the next six games and take the rubber.
The Kazakhs completed their victory from behind as Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov beat Andre Goransson and Robert Lindstedt 6-3, 6-3.
Australia are practically out of the competition despite a 2-1 victory over Hungary.