Novak Djokovic inspires Serbia to inaugural ATP Cup title
Serbia beat Spain 2-1 in the final at the Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 12/01/20 3:17pm
Novak Djokovic inspired Serbia to win the inaugural ATP Cup title with a 2-1 victory over Spain at the Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney.
The final of the new 24-team competition went down to a deciding-doubles match after Djokovic prevailed over Rafael Nadal in the second singles tie to level proceedings between the teams.
Spain, who won the Davis Cup team competition at the end of November, decided not to field Nadal in the final match and instead partnered Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez together.
After his loss to Djokovic, and the intensity of the 10 days as a whole, Nadal shared that his energy levels were "a little bit lower than usual" and duly put his faith in his team-mates.
In contrast, Djokovic was energised by his singles victory and once out on court for the doubles, dictated the script in the deciding encounter.
I'll remember this experience for the rest of my life as one of the nicest moments of my career, for sure. I've been very fortunate to have had an amazing career but playing for the team and the country can't be matched. It's too special.
In the doubles, the world No 2 helped to calm his partner Viktor Troicki, after they were broken in the very first game. He kept his own game on point and gave his compatriot the license to play with freedom, despite the high stakes.
With Troicki's levels soaring, and the Spanish pairing not able to find a way around the world No 2 either, Serbia went up a set and a break.
With a 6-3 3-2 lead, Djokovic faced a potential break point on his serve however on the deciding point, he connected sweetly with a second serve and forced the error on the return.
Djokovic and Troicki continued to thrive off the ardent Serbian support in the stands and after the teams exchanged holds, Djokovic served it out to love to secure their maiden ATP Cup title.
The 55th singles meeting between Djokovic and Nadal had created the competition's thrilling finale and highlighted why both players are second and first in the world.
The Serbian broke his Nadal in the first game and went on to win his 18th set in a row against him (on hard courts) by 6-2.
With a 19-7 head-to-head record against Nadal on the surface, Djokovic had been in such a positive position before but also knew to expect significant retaliation from the world No 1.
Nadal started to generate waves of his own as the second set played-out and none more so than the tennis he produced to claw himself back from 15-30 at 5-5 all.
Djokovic's break point opportunities arrived after he outlasted Nadal in a barn-storming rally but from there, he had to applaud the world No 1's determination and skill-level.
Nadal cancelled out the first break point through a jaw-dropping forehand volley, one that graced the line, and then unleashed a world-class 145km backhand winner to claw it back to deuce. He roared as he went on to hold.
Every time I get to play Rafa, we get to play a lot of exciting points. There were some incredible exchanges today. I started the match perfectly, everything worked for me and my serve got me out of trouble in the second set. I'm really glad to have held my nerve in the end.
With the crowd making themselves heard at every opportunity, the second set went to an enthralling tie-break.
After sharing the opening eight points, Djokovic unleashed a wicked backhand winner of his own to create a window of opportunity at 5-4.
He forced Nadal into an error on the backhand slice to take the next point. Then, on his own serve secured the first of his two match points for the much-needed 6-2 7-6 (7-4) victory.
In the first tie of the final, Roberto Bautista Agut had too much for Dusan Lajovic to handle and beat the Serbian 7-5 6-1.