Playing against each other for the 55th time on the Tour, Novak Djokovic scored the 29th victory over world no. 1 and the ninth straight on the hard courts to keep Serbia alive in the ATP Cup final. Novak scored a 6-2, 7-6 triumph in an hour and 55 minutes, delivering the sixth victory at the beginning of the season and reducing the deficit to Nadal in the battle for the no.
1 spot ahead of the Australian Open. Djokovic dominated in the first set before Nadal managed to respond in the second, staying in touch with the Serb and missing a chance to break him at 3-2 and gain the lead. Firing 12 aces, Novak lost only 14 points in ten service games, repelling those five break chances and stealing Nadal's serve twice in the opener for the best possible start.
Rafa served better in the second set and stayed in touch after erasing two late break points, only to fall in the tie break and send Novak over the top, losing all the matches against the Serb on hard since the US Open 2013!
Firing from all cylinders right from the start, Novak converted the third break chance in the very first game when Nadal's slice found the net, cementing the break with a service winner after deuce in game two and creating more damage on the return in the fifth game.
Battling for every point, Rafa fended off two break chances to remain within one break deficit before Novak landed another deep return that his rival couldn't control in the seventh game to move 5-2 up. Serving for the set, the Serb blasted four service winners to take it 6-2 after 39 minutes, hoping for more of the same in the rest of the encounter.
Raising his level in set number two, Rafa lost only three points in the opening three service games and earned five break opportunities in the sixth game that could have sent the momentum to his side of the court. Producing bold and brave hitting, Djokovic repelled those to remain on the positive side of the scoreboard, serving well by the end of the set and having a chance to seal the deal in the 11th game when Nadal had to play against two break chances.
With his back pushed against the wall, Nadal fired two winners to get out of jail and reach a tie break, moving 3-2 up there with a backhand down the line winner. Djokovic responded with two winners that pushed him 4-3 in front and gained another mini-break with a backhand down the line winner in the ninth point.
Nadal sprayed a backhand slice error to face two match points, netting a forehand in the next point to hand the victory to Novak ahead of the deciding doubles encounter. "I have been playing a lot of tennis in the last couple of days.
My level of energy is a little bit lower than usual because I played long yesterday, very long before yesterday, very long in Perth in the last day. It was a joined decision and we believe in our team."