Janko Tipsarevic watched Vasek Pospisil fight off four match points, but wasn’t about to let the finish line dissipate in a cloud of red dust. So when Pospisil pulled off a serve-and-dive drop volley that looked like it came straight out of a Cirque du Soleil routine, Tipsarevic took appropriate action: He hurled himself at the whirling yellow ball.
Launching himself across the court, Tipsarevic dug out a full-stretch winner to close a spirited 7-6 (3), 6-2, 7-6 (6) victory on an acrobatic fifth match point. That pulsating shot sealed Serbia's 3-2 victory over Canada and sent the host into the Davis Cup final for the second time in four years.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Pospisil and veteran Daniel Nestor edged Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac in a five-set doubles thriller that spanned four hours, 21 minutes and put Canada on the brink of its first Davis Cup final. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated Canadian No. 1 Milos Raonic, 7-6 (1), 6-2, 6-2, to level the semifinal and set the stage for the decisive fifth rubber.
Tipsarevic, who suffered a gut-wrenching 10-8 in the fifth-set loss to Raonic on Friday, played with the poise of a man who had already plotted points out in his head, displaying shrewd court sense and clarity at crunch time. The 23rd-ranked Serbian tried to take the first strike on key points and jerk the Canadian corner to corner.
Eighteen minutes into the match, Pospisil winced in pain striking a shot and took an injury timeout for an apparent elbow injury. Pospisil had to be physically depleted and mentally drained playing his third best-of-five set match in three days, but powered either by an adrenaline rush, the elasticity of his 23-year-old legs or his skill at the physical bluff, he bounced around the court with exuberance, fighting off three break points in the third game and working out of a 15-30 hole in the 12th game to force the tiebreaker.
Tipsarevic beat Pospisil in forehand exchanges and changed direction more effectively in the breaker. Pospisil sometimes alternated between flying into his forehand and falling off it. Pulling off that shot, he dragged a forehand into net treating Tipsarevic to a mini break to open. Vasek tipped his hand too early on a forehand drop shot, Janko sped up to the ball and knifed a beautifully-controlled one-handed backhand pass, creating such a sharp crosscourt angle that Pospisil toppled to the clay trying to catch up to the ball, falling into a 4-0 hole.
Drawing energy from a small, but spirited Canadian contingent clad in red and collectively bouncing up and down while bellowing “Let’s Go Vasek!”, Pospisil responded with a slick backhand volley winner inside the sideline, a clever drop shot and an ace, closing to 3-5. But when he tried angling off another backhand volley, Tipsarevic was onto it, scraping out a running winner for set point and closing the 78-minute set when Pospisil put a backhand into net.
The Tipsarevic serve and down the line drives were the key strokes in the second set. He broke for a 2-0 second-set lead with a backhand down the line, won 16 of 21 points played on his serve and did not face a break point in taking the second set in 35 minutes.
When the tattooed Tipsarevic built a 5-2 third-set lead, the end seemed imminent. Credit Pospisil for his unwavering competitive spirit — and a willingness to throw every bit of energy and every shot of creativity he had left — as he scored his first break for 4-5 and backed it up convincingly for 5-all.
The Belgrade faithful erupted as Tipsarevic blasted a backhand winner down the line for a 6-2 lead in the tiebreaker, the entire Serbian squad sprung from their seats in unison, but closure was complicated as Tipsarevic committed errors on the first two match points, a Pospisil forehand splattered into the tape and plopped over the net on the third and the Canadian erased the fourth with a declarative smash and defiant fist.
The end came like a double knockdown in a heavyweight fight: Both men laid it out tasting dirt as Pospisil appeared to injure his ankle crashing to the clay. Tipsarevic, who climbed off the court into the arms of his joyous teammates, showed his sportsmanship, breaking free from the swarm to hurdle the net and check on his fallen opponent.
The victory vaulted 2010 Davis Cup champion Serbia into the November 15-17th final where it will host defending champion Czech Republic in Belgrade in what could be a combustible clash—and intriguing post-match hand shake—given Tipsarevic's last Davis Cup encounter with Czech No. 2 Radek Stepanek.