MANILA, Philippines – After encountering some road bumps on their way to a third consecutive FIBA 3x3 World Cup championship, powerhouse Serbia is in no mood to think about a possible "four-peat" next year.
The Serbian 3x3 team – composed of world No. 1 Dejan Majstorovic, world No. 2 Marko Savic, world No. 3 and tournament MVP Dusan Bulut, and world No. 4 Stefan Stojacic – were unbeaten in the entire competition held last June 8-12 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
However, they were nearly upset by Poland in the semifinals, where they needed a cold-blooded dagger from Majstorovic for a 21-19 win and a spot in the title game. There, they were pushed to the limit by the Netherlands, before Bulut engineered a late breakaway for a 16-13 triumph.
"It was always a pleasure to play against our friends from the Netherlands," Savic said after their victory. "They are very good friends off the court; but on the court, they are motivated to beat us."
"Last year, we beat them in the final. This year, they got a different roster, much better, and they also wanted to beat us. So against them, it's always hard. But we gave our best. Not our best game, but in the end, it was worth the gold medal," he added.
It was Serbia's third consecutive gold in the FIBA 3x3 World Cup. They have been the most dominant team in the 3x3 discipline, having won the World Cup four out of five times. The only time that they missed out on the gold was in 2014, the second edition of the World Cup, when they lost to Qatar, 18-13, in the final.
There seems to be no end in sight to Serbia's dominance of 3x3, especially as they have four of the top players in the world.
However, the Serbian men stressed that for all their greatness, a "four-peat" in next year's World Cup in Amsterdam is no guarantee.
"That's not in our mind right now," Majstorovic said.
"We still have to continue the season," said Savic. "We've got a European championship that we never won, and we want to win that."
Savic was referring to the FIBA 3x3 Europe Cup, which takes place in Romania in September. Serbia has never won gold in that tournament. Indeed, they've made it to the podium just once – in 2016, when they took the silver medal.
They will still have to qualify to the Europe Cup. Serbia will compete in the Romania qualifier on June 30 to July 1, where they will be up against the home team as well as Poland, Croatia, Germany, Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Sweden and Ireland.
"One tournament at a time," said Savic.
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.