World no. 1 Novak Djokovic had to work hard in the season's opening match at the ATP Cup, defeating Denis Shapovalov 7-5, 7-5 in an hour and 53 minutes. In the opening rubber, Milos Raonic toppled Dusan Lajovic, and Djokovic had to beat Shapovalov to keep Serbia alive ahead of the deciding doubles clash.
Novak and Denis fought at the first edition of the ATP Cup in 2020, and the Serb needed two hours and 40 minutes to prevail 4-6, 6-1, 7-6. Shapovalov failed to win a set this year, and he still gave his best against the world's leading player before losing serve in the closing stages of both sets.
The Serb served at 70% and lost only 14 points in 12 service games, never facing a break point and mounting the pressure on the youngster all the time.
Novak Djokovic defeated Denis Shapovalov in two tight sets in Melbourne.
Shapovalov had more winners and unforced errors (25-38) and fell short of reaching at least one tie break.
Novak held at 15 with a service winner in the first game before a left-hander held at love for 1-1. The world's leading player held at love after a wild forehand from Shapovalov in game three and created two break chances in the next one.
Denis fended off both and held after three deuces with a booming ace to avoid an early setback and remain in touch. From 30-0 down, the youngster claimed four straight points in game six before Novak fired a forehand down the line bullet on his serve for a 4-3 lead.
Both players served well in the upcoming three games, with a deuce on Djokovic's serve at 5-5. The Serb secured that game and erased Shapovalov's two game points a few minutes later to clinch a break and steal the set 7-5.
In the second set's second game, Denis forced Novak's error to save a break chance and fired two winners at deuce at 3-4 to follow the rival's pace and stay in contention. Both players produced fine holds in games nine and ten, and Djokovic closed the 11th with a service winner.
Returning at 6-5, the 17-time Major champion painted a forehand down the line winner to earn a break and move over the top, happy with how he performed and preparing for the doubles match.