Djokovic Propels Serbia into Davis Cup Quarter-finals, Britain win

Novak succeeded in qualifying for the quarter-finals (Reuters)
Novak succeeded in qualifying for the quarter-finals (Reuters)

Djokovic Propels Serbia into Davis Cup Quarter-finals, Britain win

Novak succeeded in qualifying for the quarter-finals (Reuters)
Novak succeeded in qualifying for the quarter-finals (Reuters)

Novak Djokovic made a winning return to action following his US Open triumph, as the world number one helped Serbia book their place in the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup on Friday with a group stage victory over hosts Spain.

Playing just five days after lifting his 24th Grand Slam title in New York, Djokovic overcame the hot and humid conditions early on and recovered from 4-1 down in the second set to beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-3 6-4 in Valencia.

The result secured an unassailable 2-0 lead for Serbia after Laslo Djere beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4 6-4 in the first match of the Group C tie and secured a tie in the last eight in Malaga, which will take place in November.

"I'm on cloud nine, as you can see with everything that's has been happening lately on the tennis court," Djokovic said following his 13th straight match victory, Reuters reported.

"Playing for Serbia, for my country, is something completely different. It's a huge responsibility and pressure but also an incredible privilege and honour, so I'm really glad that I was able to contribute with a crucial point to qualify for Malaga.

"Obviously unfortunate for the Spanish crowd, they wanted Spain to win but I think we did really well ... and now we'll try against the Czech Republic tomorrow to clinch top spot in the group to hopefully get a better draw."

Djokovic said he was fully committed to helping the 2010 Davis Cup champions in their quest for a second title in the premier men's team competition.

"It was all happening really quickly within a few days and I was on a high with the US Open win and the celebration at home and leaving my family is never easy but coming to another family - my Serbian squad - gives me the greatest of joy," he added.

"At the beginning of the season I said the Grand Slams and playing for my country were my priorities. I want to contribute as much as I can. Here we are, the goal is reached, we're in the last eight. Hopefully we can keep going in the right direction."

Over in Manchester, an emotional Andy Murray gave Britain a 1-0 lead over Switzerland by outlasting Leandro Riedi 6-7(7) 6-4 6-4 and later revealed he missed his grandmother's funeral to play in the Group B clash. read more

Veteran Stan Wawrinka rolled back the years to level the tie by beating Cameron Norrie 7-5 6-4 and returned to play the doubles rubber alongside Dominic Stricker, but the Swiss were no match for Dan Evans and Neal Skupski who prevailed 6-3 6-3.

In Group A, Italy delighted home fans in Bologna by taking a 2-0 lead over Chile as Matteo Arnaldi downed Cristian Garin 2-6 6-4 6-3 and Lorenzo Sonego overcame Nicolas Jarry 3-6 7-5 6-4.

Finland handed Croatia their second defeat in Group D with Otto Virtanen getting past Dino Prizmic 6-4 3-6 6-3 and Emil Ruusuvuori beating Borna Gojo 7-6(3) 6-4 in Split. The result meant the Netherlands advanced to the knockouts.

Italian Coaches are Dominating the Dugouts at Euro 2024. The Coaching School is the Reason Why

Italian Coach Luciano Spalletti - File/The AP
Italian Coach Luciano Spalletti - File/The AP

Italian Coaches are Dominating the Dugouts at Euro 2024. The Coaching School is the Reason Why

Italian Coach Luciano Spalletti - File/The AP
Italian Coach Luciano Spalletti - File/The AP

Italy continues a tradition at the European Championship with Italian coaches — this time five — in charge of national teams at the tournament in Germany.

Italy coach Luciano Spalletti is joined by Vincenzo Montella (Turkey), Domenico Tedesco (Belgium), Marco Rossi (Hungary) and Francesco Calzona (Slovakia).

With five of the 24 teams in Germany led by Italians, this tops the Netherlands’ mark of having three coaches — out of 16 teams — at Euro 2008.

All but Tedesco studied at the Italian federation’s coaching school, which is directed by former coach Renzo Ulivieri, who is also the president of the Italian soccer coaches’ association, The AP reported.

“It is a great source of pride for all of Italian soccer and especially for our coaching school,” Ulivieri said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“We think that our coaches are excellent, for two reasons: ours is a good school and then the coaches have a very educational apprenticeship within our leagues, both in the professional leagues but also in the amateur ones, where tactics play a huge part.”

The strength is evident not only in the national teams but also at the club level. Carlo Ancelotti, one of the most famous Italian coaches, won his fifth Champions League title this month when Real Madrid beat Borussia Dortmund 2-0 in the final.

Atalanta, under Gian Piero Gasperini, won the Europa League, beating Leverkusen 3-0. Only Fiorentina's narrow 1-0 loss to Olympiakos in the Europa Conference League final under coach Vincenzo Italiano prevented Italian managers from sweeping the European titles.

“The secret (to Italian managerial success) is our predisposition to the art of making the best out of everything, even in difficult situations,” Ulivieri added. “An Italian-Neapolitan art, which is often useful in being a coach.”

Luciano Spalletti The best known of the Italian coaches at the tournament, Spalletti also got the highest marks.

Spalletti attended the FIGC’s coaching school in 1998-99 and graduated with the maximum grade attainable: 110 cum laude. He wrote his thesis on “The 3-5-2 playing system.”

Spalletti took charge of Italy last year, shortly after quitting Napoli. He led the southern team to its first Serie A title in more than three decades.

That also ended a lengthy wait for his first Italian league title despite coaching teams such as Inter Milan and Roma. He won Italian Cup titles with Roma in 2007 and 2008 and then Russian league trophies with Zenit St. Petersburg in 2010 and 2012.

The 65-year-old Spalletti has brought his all-attacking style and flair to a reinvigorated Italy.

However, the Azzurri have had a stuttering start to their title defense. Italy beat Albania 2-1 in their opening match before being completely outclassed in a 1-0 loss to Spain.

Vincenzo Montella Montella was also one of the top students in class, with a final mark of 110/110 at the end of his course in 2011.

Montella took charge of Turkey’s national team last year but has been living in the country since 2021 as coach of Super Lig team Adana Demirspor.

The 50-year-old had previously coached Fiorentina, AC Milan and Sampdoria among others in his native country as well as Sevilla in Spain. His only trophy as coach was the Italian Super Cup with Milan.

Montella was a prolific forward during his playing career and helped Italy to the Euro 2000 final.

“As a student at the school, Montella was exactly like he was when he was a player: a stellar kid, also studious,” Ulivieri said.

Turkey won its opener 3-1 against debutant Georgia but Montella's team will face a much tougher task against Portugal on Saturday.

Francesco Calzona Slovakia may be Calzona’s first job as head coach but the 55-year-old has had an impressive apprenticeship.

Calzona was assistant coach to Maurizio Sarri at Napoli from 2015-18. He was also part of Spalletti’s staff at the Serie A team and helped lay the foundation for its run to the league title.

Calzona left in August 2022, before the title-winning season, when former Napoli and Slovakia captain Marek Hamsik — who holds his country’s appearance and goalscoring records — suggested he take over as the coach of Slovakia’s national team.

After steering Slovakia to Euro 2024, Calzona was given his first senior role at club level when Napoli turned to him in February as its third coach in a disastrous season. He was given a contract for the remainder of the season and allowed to do both jobs.

Slovakia pulled off the biggest shock of Euro 2024 so far when it beat Belgium in their opener. It lost its second group match to Ukraine.

Marco Rossi After several years of coaching in the lower leagues of Italian soccer and then finding himself without a club for a year, Rossi considered joining his brother’s accountancy firm.

But a chance meeting with the sporting director of Honved at a restaurant in Budapest led to him to take charge of the Hungarian team.

The 59-year-old Rossi had two spells with Honved and led the team to its first Hungarian league title in 24 years in 2017. He also coached a Slovakian team before being appointed Hungary coach in July 2018.

Rossi steered Hungary to Euro 2020 but lost its opener to Portugal and was eliminated at the group stage despite impressive draws against France and Germany.

Hungary lost both its matches so far at this year's tournament, to Switzerland and Germany.

Domenico Tedesco The youngest of the Italian coaches, Tedesco was also the only one not to study at the federation’s coaching school.

The 38-year-old Italian-German was appointed as Belgium coach in February last year but has quickly built a solid and entertaining team that was unbeaten in his tenure until the shock loss to Slovakia.

Tedesco emigrated from Italy to Germany with his family when he was 2 years old. He began his coaching career with the youth squads at Stuttgart when he was just 22, while also working at the Mercedes factory.

Tedesco obtained his coaching license in Germany and was top in a class that included current Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann. He coached the senior teams at Schalke, Spartak Moscow and Leipzig, which he led to the German Cup in 2022.