Rafael Nadal seeks ATP Cup title in February, leading strong Spanish team

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Rafael Nadal seeks ATP Cup title in February, leading strong Spanish team

World no. 2 Rafael Nadal will lead Spain at the ATP Cup in the first week of February, as Marca reports. Spain should be among the title contenders as in 2020, with Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno Busta and Marcel Granollers wrapping the team well-capable of beating any opponent in the draw.

The ATP Cup embraces a reduced schedule next year, with 12 countries battling for the title over five days, just before the Australian Open. During the inaugural ATP Cup last January, Nadal won four out of six singles matches and earned 250 points.

After beating Nikoloz Basilashvili and Pablo Cuevas, Rafa had to battle hard versus Yoshihito Nishioka before experiencing the first loss of the season to David Goffin. The Spaniard bounced back against Alex de Minaur in the semis and set the title clash against Novak Djokovic that could have won Spain's title.

Playing against each other for the 55th time on the Tour, Djokovic scored the 29th victory over Nadal and the ninth straight on the hard courts to keep Serbia alive! Novak earned a 6-2, 7-6 triumph in an hour and 55 minutes, delivering the sixth straight victory at the beginning of the season and reducing the deficit to Nadal ahead of the Australian Open.

Djokovic held everything under control in the opening set before Nadal responded in the second, staying in touch with the Serb and missing a chance to break him at 3-2 and move in front. 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 a convincing start.

Rafael Nadal will lead Spain at the ATP Cup for the second year.

Rafa served better in the second set and followed Novak's pace after erasing two late break chances, only to fall in the tie break and send Novak over the top.

Firing from all cylinders, Novak converted the third break chance in the first game when Nadal's slice caught the net, cementing the break with a service winner after deuce and creating more damage on the return at 3-1.

Battling for every point, Rafa fended off two break chances before Novak landed another deep return that carried him towards a 5-2 lead. 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 clash.

Raising his level in set number two, Rafa lost only three points in the opening three service games and earned no less than five break opportunities in the sixth game that could have given him momentum. Producing bold and brave hitting, Djokovic repelled them all and remained on the positive side, serving well by the end of the set and having a chance to seal the deal at 5-5 when Nadal played against two break chances.

With his back pushed against the wall, Rafa 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 at 4-4.

Nadal sprayed a backhand slice error to face two match points and netted a forehand in the next point to hand the victory to Novak ahead of the deciding doubles encounter. Serbia won it in straight sets to celebrate the first ATP Cup title.