Djokovic’s Serbia Will Conquer Czechs in Davis Cup Final Showdown

Serbia 1.84, Czech Republic 1.92

It’s hardly surprising that Serbia are favourites to win this weekend’s Davis Cup final.

The home advantage is an enormous one at any stage of this international team competition. Even more when we get down to the business end.

So pity the poor Czechs when they turn up at the 15,000-capacity Belgrade Arena to face a baying crowd of hostile Serbian fans.

But the Czechs face a second disadvantage. Their team captain, Jaroslav Navratil, was hospitalised last week with a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot in the lung.

The 56-year-old former doubles specialist has been in charge of his nation’s Davis Cup team since 2006 and is considered something of a talisman, with 16 tie wins over the last eight years. Last year he guided his players to overall victory in the Davis Cup.

It was the first time the Czech Republic had won – unless you count Czechoslovakia’s 1980 triumph, before the country split in two. So to have him laid up in a hospital bed is something of a psychological blow to the Czechs.

Navratil’s emergency replacement is Vladimir Safarik, the director of Ceska Sportovni, the agency that organises the Czech team’s Davis Cup ties. He does actually have experience in skippering team tennis – but that was in Fed Cup, and over 20 years ago, to boot. The 2013 Davis Cup final is a wholly different prospect.

From his sick bed, Navratil insists Safarik is the "right person” to take the helm. “He has been with the team for more than 15 years, he has experience, speaks great English… and the boys respect him.”

Respect and experience will certainly be useful. But when it comes to thousands of Serbian fans, a healthy command of English will be about as useful as a tourist guidebook to Kosovo.

As ever, in Davis Cup, the outcome may all hinge on the doubles rubber, and this is an area where the Czechs can possibly overturn the disadvantage of playing away - although the selection of Jan Hajek and Lukas Rosol surprised everyone.

Serbia, meanwhile, can draw on their very experienced doubles star Nenad Zimonjic (former world No.1), who teams up with Ilija Bozoljac. “Whatever it takes,” says the upbeat Zimonjic. “It doesn’t matter how long we are going to play. If it takes five hours, we’ll play five hours.”

Bet on Serbia to beat Czech Republic.

Read more from Unibet columnist Dominic Bliss.