Djokovic Retirement Bails Out Russia

ReutersNovak Djokovic suffering from flu symptoms during his Davis Cup match against Nikolai Davydenko on Sunday.
Russia beat Serbia in the Davis Cup when an ill Novak Djokovic retired from his match against Nikolai Davydenko, handing the home team an unassailable 3-1 lead in their first-round tie Sunday, before Serbia's Viktor Troicki beat Dmitry Tursunov 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 in the dead fifth rubber.

The Australian Open champion had won the first two sets and was 3-0 up in the third despite being way below his best and often struggling for breath after suffering from flu symptoms in the last few days.

Davydenko staged a miraculous recovery, however, to win the third set 6-4, after which the Serb decided he could not continue.

"I stopped because I didn't want to risk my health," Djokovic said after showing up for a news conference more than an hour after his match.

"I didn't go to hospital after all but still, I was feeling very dizzy. I was losing a lot of energy. It's not easy to play when you have a virus infection."

A Serbian team spokesperson had earlier said Djokovic was taken to a local hospital suffering from exhaustion.

The home team had led 2-0 after sweeping Friday's singles matches but Djokovic kept alive Serbia's hopes when he teamed up with Nenad Zimonjic to win Saturday's doubles.

With Serbia number two Janko Tipsarevic also sidelined by a stomach bug and ankle injury, the visitors gambled on the ailing Djokovic to challenge the Russian No. 1.

"It was my decision to play the match," said Djokovic.

The world No. 3, cheered on by a small but vocal Serbian contingent at Luzhniki arena, broke Davydenko in the 12th game to take the first set 6-4.

After losing his serve in the opening game of the second set, the 20-year-old Serb broke right back, then repeated the trick two games later to build a 4-1 lead.

Djokovic then saved four break points in the ninth to clinch the second set 6-3.

The writing seemed to be on the wall for Davydenko when he fell behind 3-0 at the start of the third set.

But the Russian staged a remarkable comeback, reeling off four consecutive games to win the third set only to see Djokovic walking off the court.

"I was completely shocked to see him walking out," Davydenko said.

"He played well for more than two hours as I was making a lot of mistakes," added the world number four, who committed 60 unforced errors and only converted four of his 18 break-point chances in the two hour 41 minute match.

"I knew he wanted to win in three sets to save his energy. I had no choice but to keep fighting."

In other World Group first-round ties, Czech Republic beat Belgium 3-1; Argentina beat Great Britain 4 - 0; Germany beat Republic of Korea 3-1,

Spain beat Peru 3-0; France beat Romania 5-0; the United States beat Austria 4-1. Israel and Sweden were locked up 2 - 2 with the deciding rubber in progress.