World no. 2 Novak Djokovic had to work hard on Monday to deliver the second victory for Serbia at the inaugural ATP Cup, as the Serbs defeated the Frenchmen 2-1 to remain unbeaten and secure the quarter-final berth in Sydney.
In the first match, Benoit Paire took down Dusan Lajovic in three sets, leaving Djokovic with no room for errors in the singles clash against Gael Monfils and the deciding doubles encounter with Viktor Troicki against Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Lajovic and Paire fought for over two hours and the Frenchman prevailed 6-2, 6-7, 6-4, wasting match points in set number two and bouncing back with a late break in the decider. Benoit faced only four break points overall, suffering two breaks and securing five from 13 chances on the return, three in the opening set that he grabbed 6-2.
An early break pushed the Frenchman closer to the finish line, leading 6-2, 5-3 before Lajovic started to climb back, pulling the break back in game ten and fending off two match points in the tie break against a frustrated rival to clinch it 8-6 and set a decider.
Regaining his focus, Paire sailed through five service games and stole Dusan's serve at 5-4 after taking four straight points to push France in front. Facing each other for the 16th time, Novak Djokovic toppled Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and 31 minutes for the 16th victory over world no.
9, leveling the overall score and getting everything ready for the deciding doubles rubber. Serving at only 50% and hitting five double faults, Novak managed to draw the danger away from his service games, repelling all nine break chances and stealing Gael's serve on all three occasions to cross the finish line in straight sets.
Novak had to play against seven break chances in three different games of the opener, staying determined and focused and not making a single mistake in those points to take the momentum away from Monfils. On the other hand, Novak converted the first break opportunity in the sixth game, moving 4-2 in front and securing the set after saving two break points in game nine for a 6-3.
Monfils suffered breaks in games three and five in set number two, unable to match Djokovic's pace and allowing the Serb to move over the top with a forehand winner in game eight and grab the second victory of the season.
In the deciding doubles clash, Novak Djokovic was back on the court with Viktor Troicki, defeating Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-3, 6-7, 10-3 to propel Serbia into the quarter-final of the ATP Cup. The Serbs were the dominant figures in the opener, serving well (one break point saved at 5-3) and scoring break in game six to take a big step towards the goal.
Serving at 4-4 in set number two, the French duo repelled four break chances to stay alive, clinching the tie break 7-5 with a single mini-break and gathering momentum ahead of the decider. There, Novak and Viktor were back at their best, rattling off the last nine points to start a massive celebration with their teammates and fans who stayed up late to support them.