Djokovic leads Serbia to victory at inaugural ATP Cup

  • Matt Trollope

Novak Djokovic produced a brilliant display of tennis on Sunday evening to help deliver Serbia the title in the inaugural edition of the ATP Cup.

Roared on by a vocal contingent of Serbian fans at Sydney’s Ken Rosewall Arena, Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal in straight sets before combining with Viktor Troicki to defeat Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez – a victory handing Serbia a 2-1 victory over Spain.

The night began with Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut maintaining his flawless form to see off Dusan Lajovic 7-5 6-1.

"I'll remember this experience for the rest of my life, as definitely one of the nicest moments of my career, for sure,” Djokovic said.

"I've been very fortunate and blessed to have an amazing career, the last 15 years. But playing for the team, playing for the country, with some of my best friends, for long, long time, you can't match that. It's too special.”

Facing the prospect of a must-win singles match against the world No.1 to keep Team Serbia alive, Djokovic played an incredible first set against Nadal, forcing the Spaniard to cede enormous territory as he controlled the tempo and dynamic of rallies.

Nadal made it a tougher contest in the second set, but was unable to convert a 0-40 lead and a total of five break points in the sixth game, and never had a chance as good as that again to turn the match in his favour.

Djokovic completed an entertaining 6-2 7-6(4) win in just under two hours, a blockbuster match between the world’s top two players that could well be repeated in two weeks’ time at Melbourne Park.

The result saw Djokovic maintain his hard-court mastery of the Spaniard; Nadal has not beaten his rival on a hard court since the 2013 US Open and has now lost 20 of their 27 matches on the surface.

Djokovic also improved to 3-0 against Nadal on Australian soil.

"I'll remember this experience for the rest of my life, as definitely one of the nicest moments of my career, for sure."
Novak Djokovic

The world No.2 went undefeated in six singles matches at the ATP Cup, much like Bautista Agut, who even more impressively did not drop a set in any of his six victories for Team Spain.

The world No.10 dissected the heavy-hitting Lajovic with precise, metronomic groundstrokes and efficient court movement.

He improved his head-to-head record against Lajovic to 6-0 and his own winning streak to eight matches, positioning him as an potential threat to the Big Three at Australian Open 2020 – and their enduring dominance at the majors. 

These singles results meant it all came down to the doubles, where Lopez and Carreno Busta surged to a 3-1 lead as Troicki struggled to keep pace.

Yet he settled, and with Djokovic brimming with confidence alongside him, the Serbian pairing won five straight games to take the first set, wrest control of the match, and whip the crowd into a frenzy.

"I remember playing with him since we were nine, 10. To share such a moment on the court with him, I cannot describe it with words. It's unreal,” Troicki said of Djokovic.

"(It was a) bit of a slow start ... but luckily we came back really strong, really great focus after that. We kept it strong until the end and the fans helped us so much – I want to thank them.”

The night concluded on a heart-warming note when Djokovic and Nadal, during the trophy presentation, announced that the ATP would contribute $725,000 to bushfire relief efforts in Australia.

Both Djokovic and Nadal will participate in the AO Rally for Relief fundraising event on Wednesday at Rod Laver Arena.