ATP Cup Final Eight set for Sydney

  • Alex Sharp

It’s time for the spotlight to shine on Sydney as the ATP Cup quarterfinal line-up was completed on Wednesday.

Hosts Australia, Great Britain, Russia and Serbia had already booked their ticket into the Final Eight of the inaugural event. 

And on Wednesday, Argentina and Spain posted 3-0 triumphs against Croatia and Japan respectively to join them.

Canada and Belgium, meanwhile, held onto their positions as the best second-placed teams within the group standings to remain in the hunt for silverware.

World No.1 Rafael Nadal was forced to rely on all the experience that has earned him 19 Grand Slam titles to fend off the spirited fight of Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.


 

In a series of enthralling rallies, Nadal and Nishioka dragged each other from corner to corner, but the Spaniard recovered from a break down in the first set to post a 7-6(4) 6-4 win -- a decisive victory after fellow Spaniard Roberto-Bautista Agut beat Go Soeda in straight sets. 

“I played against a player that he started the season on fire winning two great matches against two very good opponents. So it's a positive victory for me and it's an important victory for the team,” declared Nadal, who is undefeated in ATP Cup action thus far.

“To qualify for Sydney is an important achievement for us. We go on, we go to Sydney straight with the confidence that we didn't lose a match yet.

“I think it's been a positive week for me personally, and for the team, of course. I really believe that we need to keep working well, but I really hope to be ready to increase the level.”

"To qualify for Sydney is an important achievement for us. We go on, we go to Sydney straight with the confidence that we didn't lose a match yet."
Rafael Nadal on Team Spain

Guido Pella and Diego Schwartzman were the heroes as Argentina outmanoeuvred Croatia.

Pella gained the perfect start with an impressive 7-6(1) 6-3 scoreline over 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, before Schwartzman sent Argentina top of Group E with an efficient 6-2 6-2 passage past Borna Coric.
 
Alex de Minaur and Nick Kyrgios’ box-office displays had led Australia through unbeaten, a feat matched by Russia, Spain and Novak Djokovic’s Serbia.

The reigning Australian Open champion continues to relish the ATP Cup team format and closed out the group stages in Brisbane by guiding Serbia to a 3-0 win against the youthful Chilean squad.

World No.2 Djokovic was dominant once again to dismiss Cristian Garin 6-3 6-3 and has yet to drop a set in singles play after navigating past Kevin Anderson and Gael Monfils.

“I've never minded, to be honest, to kind of face tough adversity from the blocks and have high intensity matches from day one of the season. I had Kevin Anderson that was playing some extraordinary tennis. I thought it was the toughest match I've played here in Brisbane,” stated the patriotic Serb.

“I’m really happy with the challenges that I've had in the last six, seven days here, and hopefully that can allow me to build my form for Sydney and Melbourne later.

“Sydney's got a big Serbian community, hopefully the support can be as good as it was here, even better. It's a team competition, it's how I personally treat it, and that's how it feels for all of us. So having that journey through various places in Australia together feels like a World Cup to us a little bit, which I've never felt.”

Meanwhile, world No.4 Dominic Thiem’s hopes with Austria were banished after Thiem lost a pulsating 3-6 6-4 7-6(5) contest against Polish youngster Hubert Kurkacz. 

The match was laden with brilliant rallies, but was perhaps overshadowed by the night tussle between France’s Benoit Paire and South Africa’s Kevin Anderson.

Paire played with his typical panache, producing a catalogue of hot shots that flew around social media. However, it was former Wimbledon finalist Anderson who found the answers, saving match point in a 2-6 7-6(1) 7-6(5) thriller.

The Final Eight

So it's over to Sydney, where hosts Australia kick off the quarterfinal action on Thursday morning.

The key details are as follows:
 
Quarterfinal 1
Great Britain (Group C winner) v Australia (Group F winner) - Thursday, 9 January, 10am AEDT

Quarterfinal 2
Argentina (Group E winner) v Russia (Group D winner) - Thursday, 9 January, 5:30pm AEDT

Quarterfinal 3
Serbia (Group A winner) v Canada (Second runner-up) - Friday, 10 January, 10am AEDT

Quarterfinal 4
Spain (Group B winner) v Belgium (First runner-up) - Friday, 10 January, 5:30pm AEDT