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Djokovic will lead off for Serbs against Czechs

Belgrade, Serbia (SportsNetwork.com) - The Davis Cup World Group final will commence Friday with an opening singles rubber between former world No. 1 star Novak Djokovic and Czech veteran Radek Stepanek.

The host Serbs announced that one-time world No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic will be unable to play this weekend as he continues to recover from a right heel injury he suffered in Valencia, Spain, last month.

Following Djokovic-Stepanek on Day 1 will be a bout between world No. 7 Czech slugger Tomas Berdych and Tipsarevic's replacement, 117th-ranked Dusan Lajovic.

"Stepanek is a very tricky player," Djokovic said. "He likes to rush to the net and change rhythm of the match."

Saturday's key doubles rubber currently pits a Serbian duo of Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac against a Czech tandem of Lukas Rosol and Jan Hajek, but recent history would suggest that the former Wimbledon runner-up Berdych and 34-year-old Stepanek will play for the visitors in that one on the indoor hardcourt at Belgrade Arena. Berdych and Stepanek are 13-1 together in Davis Cup doubles action.

Sunday's reverse singles have the red-hot world No. 2 Djokovic battling Berdych and Stepanek taking on the 23-year-old Lajovic.

The Australian Open titlist Djokovic has won his last 22 matches, including a title just this week at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London.

"It's a real drawback for our team that we don't have both Janko and Viktor [Troicki]," Djokovic said. "I hope that I can win the first match, the first point is very important as it could release pressure on Lajovic."

The Czechs are the reigning Davis Cup champs, having beaten Spain in last year's best-of-five final in Prague when the heroic Stepanek won a fifth and deciding rubber.

The Serbs are captained by Bogdan Obradovic, while the Czechs, appearing in their third final in five years, are skippered by interim captain Vladimir Safarik, who is filling on for Jaroslav Navratil after he was hospitalized last week with a blood clot.

Serbia and the Czech Republic have split their two previous meetings. The Czechs beat the visiting Serbs in a quarterfinal matchup last year, while host Serbia prevailed in a semifinal in 2010, the year the Serbs corralled their lone Davis Cup title.