Monday, 24 February, 2020

ATP Cup semi-final: Australia v Spain

Nadal atones for surprise ATP Cup singles loss with vital doubles triumph Spain clinched a 2-1 victory over Belgium in the ATP Cup quarter-finals after Rafael Nadal made up for losing his singles
Cary Erickson | 12 January, 2020, 13:41

Spain will move on to take on Serbia in the ATP Cup final, with the world's top two players leading the way. After saving a break point at 5-5, he won six consecutive games to clinch the second set and take a 4-0 lead in the third.

Djokovic owns a flawless 6-0 record at the ATP Cup so far.

Now, as Sunday evening's final between Serbia and Spain approaches, the ATP Cup is finally down to two teams.

Dusan Lajovic pulled off the upset in the opener beating Karen Khachanov 7-5, 7-6 (1).

In the other semi-final, world number two Novak Djokovic played tactical tennis to overcome the enigmatic Daniil Medvedev in a tight three-set match, which secured Serbia's place in the final.

The Australian star was dominant on his own serve, and didn't look under any threat until the second set, when Nadal finally earned his first break point on De Minaur's serve.

It was a point that had the crowd and team-mates of both players on their feet.

Less than two weeks out from the Australian Open, Djokovic gave the world's top players a possible blueprint on how to beat the 23-year-old Russian who has been regularly toppling the game's elite.

"Paying tribute to Medvedev, Djokovic said of the match: "[It was] exciting, exhausting, joyful, terrible all at once. "It was a lot of rallies and it was very exhausting".

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"There was a lot of rallies and it was very exhausting, a very physical battle but also a mental battle". This kind of consistency and this kind of solid game from back of the court, big serves got him to where he is. "He's very hard to break from the baseline, very tall, he's got a good serve and this was the greatest challenge I've had so far this year", Djokovic said.

He didn't want any repeats of the previous night, when he lost to David Goffin - just his second loss in a singles match since a semifinal defeat to Roger Federer at Wimbledon - and then didn't win the deciding doubles encounter against Belgium until after 1 a.m.in a match tiebreaker.

"It was tough at the beginning of the match as Alex was playing at a very high level and my energy was a little lower than usual".

One Spaniard who has quietly but effectively gone about his business - and seems to have something left to give - is Roberto Bautista Agut.

"He finds a solution most of the time so I had to stick to my line and continue to move forward and that's what I did".

Nadal said late on Saturday he had not yet formed a game plan.

Doubles selection will likely come down to how the tie plays out, perhaps the ultimate result seeing the singles split so Nadal and Djokovic face off one more time for the road in Sydney. "So let's see. We have a good team too".

Nadal, who had not dropped a set this year before meeting Goffin, faced not only heat but energy-sapping humidity in Sydney and struggled to deal with it, dripping in sweat for much of the match.