SYDNEY, January 10, 2020 (by Alessandro Boroch)
During Friday’s night session at the inaugural ATP Cup, Spain prevented a huge upset, prevailing 2-1 over Belgium in a dramatic tie. Earlier the day, Serbia eased past Canada to secure their ticket into the final four.
The biggest upset of the night was provided by World No. 11 David Goffin, who emerged victorious against the reigning World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, beating him 6-4, 7-6(3) in two hours and 25 minutes. It was Goffin’s second win over the Spaniard in their sixth ATP Head2Head encounter. For Nadal, it was the first time since February 2004 that he lost a singles match in a team competition representing Spain.
Goffin started into that match furiously, and it was therefore no big surprise that he managed to secure the first break of the match to earn a 3-2 lead. Immediately afterwards, however, he had to accept the re-break after some heavy-topspin forehand winners from the Spaniard. Nonetheless, the Belgian did not stray from the path, grabbed the third break of the match and eventually stayed composed to hold his following service game to sack the first set.
Throughout the entire match, Goffin satisfied the crowd with his relentlessly aggressive style of play, since he took the ball as early as possible to avoid longer rallies with Nadal.
“I have to take the ball early to use the power of Rafa to play fast, to make him run a lot,” Goffin said. “Rafa today couldn’t play like two or three forehand in a row and make me run. Because as soon as he has time, he dictates. Even with the forehand or backhand, I’m dead. Because if I run, I’m dead against him.”
In the second set, too, it was the 29-year-old Belgian who secured the first break right at the start. He kept serving well in the course of the set and held his service games solidly until 6-4, 4-2, even without allowing a single breakball. From that game on, the momentum changed a bit. Goffin had two chances to ensure a double break, making it 5-2, but could not squeeze profit from it, mainly due to excellent defensive work from the Mallorcan.
Nadal started getting into the Belgian’s head, causing him to hit unusual errors, whereby the World No. 1 managed to earn a break to equalize to 4-4 and stay in the match.
In the end, however, the Belgian steadied himself, and managed to win the second set in a deciding tie-break to merit a straight-sets victory over the 19-time Grand Slam champion from Spain.
— ATPCup (@ATPCup) January 10, 2020
“I had to hold my nerve for a long time, which wasn’t easy. At the end I am so happy for Belgium that we get to play a decisive doubles,” Goffin said.
Bautista Agut defeats Coppejan
In the first singles rubber, Roberto Bautista Agut eased past World No. 158 Kimmer Coppejans 6-1, 6-4 in ninety minutes to secure Spain’s first victory over team Belgium. He improved his singles record at the ATP Cup to a flawless 4-0, without having dropped a single set, although it must be mentioned that Bautista Agut has not yet come across any top 100 players.
“I like to play with my teammates. It’s great to play with your country. Every match you play with your country, the crowd is special. The crowd is in the match, and it’s very nice to play these kinds of matches,” Bautista Agut said afterwards.
Spain wins decisive doubles rubber
Later in the evening, Nadal was back on court to team up with Pablo Carreno Busta in the decisive doubles rubber against the well-practiced Belgian duo, composed of Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen. In the end, it was a highly dramatic match in which the Spaniards eventually prevailed after two hours by the score of 6-7(7), 7-5, [10-7].
“We had the toughest situation possible in the whole ATP Cup, we were the last team to come from Perth with a three-hour time change, arriving so late two nights ago and finishing today at 10 past 1. We won’t be sleeping before 4 in the morning. That is an issue, but here we are. We are trying hard and are excited to be in Sydney,” Nadal said.
Team Spain will be facing Australia in the semi-finals of the inaugural ATP Cup. “Tomorrow is a very tough one against Australia, but we are going to try out best as we did in all of our careers,” Nadal added.
Locked and loaded.
— ATPCup (@ATPCup) January 10, 2020