SYDNEY, January 8, 2020 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
Spain became the fifth country to seal a spot in the quarter-finals of the first-ever ATP Cup. Results of the other ties of Wednesday’s day session, however, threw the group standings wide open.
Rafael Nadal and Roberto Bautista Agut helped Spain top Group B with a 3-0 win over Japan.
The World No. 1 needed two hours and eight minutes to defeat fellow leftie Yoshihito Nishioka 7-6(4), 6-4. Nadal came from a break down twice in the first set.
Bautista Agut, meanwhile, enjoyed a more scenic outing against Go Soeda to start play for his team. The World No. 9 won 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 19 minutes.
“Today was, I think, the most difficult match,” said Bautista Agut. “I think it was also the first match with the sun, with the heat. The ball felt much different, flying more and the court was faster. I had more difficulties today, and I think I handled it well.”
Pablo Carreno Busta alongside Nadal also took the doubles rubber, winning 7-6(5), 4-6, 10-6 against Ben McLachlan and Soeda.
— ATPCup (@ATPCup) January 8, 2020
Sixteen-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic and Dusan Lajovic powered Serbia’s win over Chile in their Group A match. Serbia won the tie 2-1.
Djokovic defeated Cristian Garin 6-3, 6-3 in 72 minutes. Djokovic was largely untroubled except at the start of the second set when he fell behind a break to the Chilean. He recovered quickly though and will now play in the quarter-finals with a perfect 3-0 singles record in the event.
Lajovic, who played the first match of the day defeated Nicolas Jarry 6-2, 7-6(3) in an hour and 33 minutes. Jarry has now lost all three of his singles rubbers in the event. Chile’s rubbers’ win-to-loss record in the event stood at 2-7.
One of the two rubbers Chile won in the round-robin stage came today against Serbia in doubles. Jarry and Alejandro Tabilo gave the South Americans some solace in their 6-3, 7-6(2) win over Viktor Troicki and Nikola Cacic.
Austria’s hopes of topping Group E were not only dent badly but their 1-2 loss to Poland meant they were ousted from the event outright.
Hubert Hurkacz literally upset the Austrians’ plans with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) win over Dominic Thiem after two hours and 35 minutes of play.
At the start of play, Poland’s morale received a boost when Kacper Zuk upset Dennis Novak 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-3. The 448th ranked Zuk is the lowest-ranked player to win a rubber at the ATP Cup, making a unique record in the event. This win for Poland is also their first victory in the ATP Cup.
“It’s a good experience because I had a chance to play for our country, first of all. I won. I helped my team to reach the win today against Austria. So I’m really glad that I won this match,” Zuk said. “That’s [my] first match against that high-ranked ATP player. So for me, it means a lot, and I hope I will have more chances to play against guys like that.”
Oliver Marach and Jürgen Melzer closed out the doubles against Lukasz Kubot and Hurkacz 6-7(3), 6-3, 11-9 to finish with a point for their country.
Following Poland’s surprising performance, the evening-session tie between Argentina and Croatia has become a must-win for both nations. For, the winning team will go to the top of Group E and advance to the quarter-finals.