SYDNEY, January 3, 2020 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
The inaugural edition of the ATP Cup began with much fanfare on Friday. The ATP Tour underwent drastic changes to accommodate the new event. Therefore, it was not surprising to see excitement about the event mingling with the usual exuberance that greets the new season, each year.
The matches played in the day session across the three venues — Brisbane, Perth and Sydney — did not disappoint although most of the results came out as expected.
In their Group F match Canada whitewashed Greece to begin their ATP Cup campaign with 3-0 margin. In the first rubber, Felix Auger-Aliassime defeated Michail Pervolarakis in straight sets 6-1, 6-3 in an hour and nine minutes. The 23-year-old Greek player, ranked 487 in the world was no match for his younger and higher-ranked opponent. The eventuality of this match-up, however, became the appetiser for the Stefanos Tsitsipas–Denis Shapovalov rubber.
The Canadian won his only fifth match against a player ranked in the top-10 of the ATP rankings in his career with his 7-6(6), 7-6(4) win over the World No. 6.
Shapovalov literally came flying off the blocks against his 21-year-old NextGen rival in the two-hour-three-minute long encounter. Not that it was an entirely one-sided game with the 2019 ATP Finals champion coming up with his fair share of shot-making. But it was always as though he was playing catch-up with Shapovalov. Tsitsipas’ mettle was when he faced two match points in the regulation time of the second set but saving those gave some hope he might give Greece the all-important equaliser. Two further match points for the southpaw dented these hopes with finality.
“It’s definitely a huge win for me. Obviously, he had an unbelievable end to the season and he’s definitely one of the top players in the world right now. He’s got a great game. So to beat a guy like this in the first match of the year, it’s really special for me. It means a lot,” Shapovalov said.
“I think today it was just a couple points here and there, just tried to keep playing my game, keep playing every single point and wait for my chances and I just think that I took advantage really well in the tie-breaks.”
To add to Greece’s woes, the team also lost its doubles rubber with Petros Tsitsipas and Pervolarakis losing to Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov 6-2, 6-3.
O 🇨🇦 Canada!
— ATPCup (@ATPCup) January 3, 2020
In Group D, Norway upset the United States winning 2-1. Taylor Fritz and Casper Ruud clinched wins for their respective countries to split the tie evenly ahead of the doubles rubber.
Fritz, ranked 32nd in the world, defeated his opponent Viktor Durasovic, who is 300 places below him in the ATP singles ranking. The 22-year-old won in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 in an hour and one minute.
In the second singles rubber between John Isner and Ruud, the youngster shrugged off the opening set loss to claim a 6-7(3), 7-6(10), 7-5 win in two hours and 43 minutes.
“I thought my opponent played well, he was better than me, no doubt about that,” said Isner. “Physically I am fine, but I didn’t do the things I needed to do today. He was making a lot of first serves and I was really struggling. He deserved that one. I have another match, but I’m a notoriously slow starter.
“I was a little bit tense and tight, I wasn’t free out there. I wasn’t clicking. I’d like to have that second match point back.”
Durasovic and Ruud were back on court for the doubles when they rallied past Austin Krajicek and Rajeev Ram 4-6, 6-3, 10-5 in one hour and 13 minutes.
— ATPCup (@ATPCup) January 3, 2020
Steve Darcis and David Goffin put up Belgium ahead 2-0 in their tie against Moldova in Group C.
Darcis opened proceedings for Belgium and looked set for a comfortable win before the 818th ranked Alexander Cozbinov pegged him back and took the second set. In the final set with cramps interfering with Cozbinov’s determination, Darcis retained his focus to win 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-5 in three hours and 10 minutes.
On the other hand, it was easy sailing for Goffin against Radu Albot. The World No. 11 dropped just five games his one hour and 22 minutes match, clinching it 6-4, 6-1.
“It’s never easy to start the season with the first match, first team competition, the new format, with the team on the bench,” Goffin said. “And the way I played, I’m very pleased, and so it’s good for the next tie.”
Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen won the dead doubles rubber against Albot and Cozbinov 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 11-9 to secure a 3-0 victory for Belgium.
Day Session COMPLETE ✅
Here are the standings:
🇨🇦 Team Canada 3 – 0 Team Greece 🇬🇷
🇳🇴 Team Norway 2 – 1 Team USA 🇺🇸
🇧🇪 Team Belgium 3 – 0 Team Moldova 🇲🇩#ATPCup
— ATP Tour (@atptour) January 3, 2020