Djokovic needed more than 4 hours to beat Nadal in four sets in New York on Monday and win his third Grand Slam title. He weathered back pain and cramping legs during the match and then a whirlwind of media commitments after it.
By the time of Thursday’s draw for Serbia’s Davis Cup semifinal against Argentina, the world’s top-ranked player still hadn’t made it to Belgrade from New York.
Though Djokovic has officially been named to play the opening singles match against David Nalbandian on Friday, his teammates acknowledged they may have to do without the winner of 10 titles this year.
“We will see how he will feel and whether he will be ready,” said 16th-ranked Viktor Troicki, who is expected to replace Djokovic if needed. “If he is not ready, I am.”
Once the draw is made, a player cannot withdraw from the opening day’s play without a medical certificate from an independent doctor.
Nadal has practiced twice in Cordoba since arriving on Wednesday for Spain’s semifinal against France and said he was “just fit enough” to play singles on Friday and Sunday.
“I am a little tired, as is logical, and not in tiptop form because I haven’t had much time to train on clay, around 4 1/2 hours,” Nadal said.
Nadal faces Richard Gasquet in the opening singles on Friday before David Ferrer takes on Gilles Simon.
The doubles match takes place on Saturday, with the reverse singles on Sunday. If Spain and Serbia win, Nadal and Djokovic could meet again in the final beginning Dec. 2, which would be hosted by defending champion Serbia.
Spain, without Nadal, was swept 5-0 in the quarterfinals in France last year. This time, Spain is at home on its favored clay surface, and while Nadal is back, France is missing its top-ranked player, Gael Monfils.
France captain Guy Forget has picked his highest-ranked available player, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in the doubles only, leaving Simon and Gasquet to contest the singles.
“We’re not a weak team just because we’ve lost Gael,” Forget said. “This team is just as strong.”
Serbia, even without Djokovic, can count on No. 13-ranked Janko Tipsarevic and No. 16 Troicki against Argentina.
That combination was enough for defending champion Serbia to finish the first day of last year’s semifinal against the Czech Republic level at 1-1, before Djokovic, who was a late withdrawal from the Friday singles, returned to play in the doubles and the Sunday singles in a 3-2 win.
“Last year I found out three hours before the match that I would play,” Troicki said. “But this time I’m aware that he might not play if he’s not right.”
Djokovic, if fit, will face Nalbandian, while Tipsarevic plays 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in Friday’s singles.
“We have come here to win,” Argentina captain Tito Vazquez said. “It will be very hard, but we are ready.”
In other Davis Cup ties, Roger Federer, beaten in five sets by Djokovic in the U.S. Open semifinals, is slated to play singles and doubles for Switzerland in a World Group playoff against Australia on grass in Sydney.
Friday’s opening singles matches will feature Federer against former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, now Australia’s second-ranked player behind 18-year-old Bernard Tomic.
In their last Davis Cup match in 2003, Hewitt recovered from two sets and a break down to beat Federer and clinch a place in the final for Australia.
“It’s one of my greatest memories,” said Hewitt, who lost his next 15 matches against Federer until last year’s win in Halle.
Federer said his loss to Djokovic in last week’s U.S. Open semifinals was “nothing” compared to the feeling he experienced after the 2003 loss to Hewitt.
Like Nadal and Djokovic, Federer is short on preparation and has had only two days’ practice on the grass courts at Royal Sydney Golf Club, butsaid he is raring to go.
“I’m not sore, sorry to disappoint you,” the 16-time Grand Slam winner told Australian reporters. “I’m feeling good, really good actually.”
Also in action will be No. 4-ranked Andy Murray, who lost to Nadal in the U.S. Open semifinals but should have an easier time as Britain faces Hungary in Europe/Africa Group Two.
Murray, who won a match 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 in Britain’s victory over Luxembourg in the previous round, opens against unranked Sebo Kiss, who hasn’t played a professional match this year and has never been ranked higher than 531st.