SYDNEY, January 11, 2020 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
In Saturday’s day session, Serbian fans were the catalyst spurring Dusan Lajovic and Novak Djokovic to victories, paving Serbia’s way into the final of the first ATP Cup in Sydney. Playing against Russia, the Serbians clinched a 3-0 win in the tie and improved their score-sheet in the event to 5-0.
Serbian No. 2 Lajovic began the day with a well-battled 7-5, 7-6(1) win over World No. 17 Karen Khachanov in an hour and 48 minutes. With the first rubber often being the pivot affecting the playing teams’ momentum, Lajovic’s win ensured that the Serbians had the upper hand ahead of the much-touted tougher clash between Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev.
After his win, the World No. 34 reiterated the same. “Going in with [a] 1-0 [lead] and Novak playing a match, I think it helps him a lot. But yesterday was really tough. So, if I lost today, I still believed that Novak is a big favourite to win and then doubles would decide.”
This was the third time Lajovic and Khachanov were facing each other and the 29-year-old has won all three matches. All three wins for the Belgrade-born have come in straight sets.
Djokovic quietens Medvedev
With respect to straight-set wins, it did not materialise for Djokovic against Medvedev. But the 16-time Grand Slam champion did shake off a two-match losing streak against the World No. 5 to keep his head-to-head against him positively balanced, 4-2. Djokovic survived a comeback attempt from Medvedev to win 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 in two hours and 47 minutes.
The match held everyone in thrall and featured physically and mentally tiring rallies. For someone who bests his opponents by outpacing them, Djokovic was at the receiving end of the same treatment from Medvedev. Yet, despite Medvedev’s attempts to pushback at Djokovic, the World No. 2 showed why he had come to be so awed in the tennis world by interspersing craftiness with physicality. In the third set, this not only helped Djokovic break Medvedev in the fifth game but also helped him save a break point while serving for the match in the 10th game.
First to the final, 🇷🇸 #TeamSerbia!
— ATPCup (@ATPCup) January 11, 2020
Post-match, Djokovic acknowledged, “Exciting, exhausting, joyful, dreadful all at once. At one point we both refused to miss from baseline, so it was a lot of rallies and it was very exhausting. Very physical battle, but also mental battle.”
The former World No. 1 also had no hesitation in praising his opponent. “He showed why he’s one of the best players in the world, why he’s top 5. This kind of consistency and this kind of solid game from back of the court, big serves got him to where he is. He deserves to be there.
“Definitely one of the most exciting matches I have played against him or any other top player last few years.”
Medvedev’s run at the ATP Cup will see him gain a re-entry into the top-4 of the ATP rankings thus helping him secure a top-4 seed at the Australian Open. Both Djokovic and he have withdrawn from next week’s ATP events in Adelaide and Auckland, respectively.
In the doubles rubber, Nikola Cacic and Viktor Troicki defeated Teymuraz Gabashvili and Konstantin Kravchuk 6-4, 7-6(7) in an hour and 29 minutes.
Serbia await the winner of the Spain-Australia semi-final in Sunday’s final.