Davis Cup - Adviser Pilic calls shots in training
Wed, 01 Dec 20:23:00 2010
Bogdan Obradovic is Serbia's Davis Cup captain but as the players went through their paces two days before their first final appearance against France, it was Niki Pilic calling the shots.
Pilic (pictured first on the right), who captained Germany to three Davis Cup triumphs before steering his native Croatia to a maiden title in 2005, has been working as an "adviser" to the Serbian team since he was approached by former protege Novak Djokovic in 2007.
Any notion, however, the 71-year-old former French Open runner-up has played a passive background role in Serbia's run to the final in the Belgrade Arena could not be further from reality.
As workmen put the finishing touches to the VIP seating in the imposing 20,000-seater indoor venue, Pilic, racket in hand, paced around at courtside as Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki practised against Janko Tipsarevic and reserve Ilija Bozoljac.
Occasionally Pilic conferred with the 43-year-old Obradovic but for the most part he stood alone, deep in thought.
At one point he had a heated debate with the bearded Tipsarevic as tension mounted ahead of the biggest day in Serbia's short time as an independent tennis nation. The Davis Cup, it seems, is still very much in Pilic's blood.
"Anything can happen in the Davis Cup but we are very optimistic," Pilic said as he walked off into the depths of the stadium for a meeting with the captain.
"In order to get three points you have to play well. It is the only formula. The second does not exist." It is a simple philosophy but one that has served Pilic well.
Should Serbia get the three points they need against a France side weakened by the absence of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga he would become the first man to have been involved with three different Davis Cup-winning nations.
Forget ready for anything
"That would be something special," said Pilic who still runs the tennis academy in Munich where world number three Djokovic arrived as a 12-year-old from the war-torn Balkans bent on becoming a grand slam champion.
Doubles specialist Zimonjic, who made his Davis Cup debut in 1995 before the former Yugoslavia fragmented, said Pilic's experience in the unique demands of Davis Cup play had helped Serbia become established in the World Group.
"He has been there for three years, since we first got into the World Group," the 34-year-old told Reuters. "He has been a big help for Bogdan who didn't have so much experience.
"He offers support and guidance about the things needed to be done and to have somebody like Niki who has done it before with two other nations definitely helps going into this final.
"But then I think what really matters is the team are mentally and physically prepared - it's what we do on the court which is going to decide it because you're on your own then."
Twice Wimbledon doubles champion Zimonjic said he did not know whether he would play with Troicki or Tipsarevic in Saturday's doubles rubber.
"We will sit down with Bogdan and Niki on Saturday and see what the situation is," he said.Reuters