After a lot of thinking, the ATP decided to host the second edition of the ATP Cup between February 1-5. Instead of 24 teams that had battled for the crown in 2020, 12 countries will seek the trophy next month, in the last preparation ahead of the Australian Open.
Fourteen of the world's 15 leading players (all except Roger Federer) will defend the national colors and seek both the trophy and ATP points, including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev.
A year ago, Serbia defeated Spain 2-1 to win the inaugural title, and they are the favorites again, together with Russia, led by two top-10 players! Serbia claimed the inaugural ATP Cup crown last January, beating Spain 2-1 in Sydney.
Roberto Bautista Agut defeated Dusan Lajovic 7-5, 6-1 in an hour and 37 minutes in the opening encounter, putting Spain in the driving seat ahead of the anticipated second clash. Playing against each other for the 55th time on the Tour, Novak Djokovic scored the 29th victory over world no.
1 Rafael Nadal and the ninth straight on the hard courts to keep Serbia alive. Novak claimed a 6-2, 7-6 triumph in an hour and 55 minutes for his sixth straight victory at the beginning of the season. Djokovic dominated the first set before Nadal responded in the second, staying in touch with the Serb and missing a chance to prolong the encounter.
Novak lost only 14 points in ten service games, repelled those five break chances and stole Nadal's serve twice in the opener for the best start. 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, losing all the matches against the Serb on hard after the US Open 2013!
Novak converted the third break chance in the first game and created more damage on the return at 3-1.
Twelve teams seek the second ATP Cup crown.
Rafa fended off two break chances to remain within one break deficit before Novak landed another deep return that moved him 5-2 up.
Serving for the set, the Serb blasted four service winners to take it 6-2 after 39 minutes, looking good to seal the deal in the second. Raising his level, Rafa lost only three points in the opening three service games and earned five break opportunities at 3-2 that could have given him momentum and bring him closer to the set.
Producing bold and brave hitting, Djokovic repelled them all to remain on the positive side of the scoreboard, serving well by the end of the set and earning a chance to seal the deal in the 11th game. With his back pushed against the wall, Rafa fired two winners to save two break points and reach a tie break.
He led 3-2 up before 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 netted a forehand on Novak's first match point to hand the victory to Novak ahead of the deciding doubles encounter.
Djokovic was back on the court soon after that with Viktor Troicki, beating Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 15 minutes to overcome the deficit and put Serbia's name on that beautiful trophy.