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AFP
January 11, 2020

Spain scrape into ATP Cup semis despite Nadal defeat

Sports

AFP
January 11, 2020

SYDNEY: Rafael Nadal suffered an upset singles loss but made amends in the doubles to keep Spain alive at the ATP Cup, with Novak Djokovic also surviving a scare before rallying to guide Serbia into a semi-final against Russia.

After Roberto Bautista Agut swept past Kimmer Coppejans 6-1, 6-4 in the first singles match, Nadal had the chance to wrap up a last four berth against David Goffin.But the 19-time Grand Slam winner struggled in the heat and humidity of Sydney, crashing 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) to the 11th-ranked Belgium. It was a rare defeat while playing for his country, who he helped to victory in the Davis Cup in November. It sent the tie to a decisive doubles match, with Nadal returning to partner Pablo Carreno Busta against Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen in a gritty 6-7 (7/9), 7-5, 10-7 win. Spain’s group games during the round-robin phase of the inaugural team event were played in Perth, where the air was much drier. Nadal, who had not dropped a set this year before meeting Goffin, was dripping in sweat for much of his singles match and used ice towels at the changeovers. He struggled to find his rhythm, giving away nine break points in the first set. Goffin had two more break points to go 5-3 up in the second, but Nadal clung on and became more offensive to take the match to a tiebreak before the Belgian closed it out for one of the biggest wins in his career.

Spain will face Australia in the last four. Like Nadal, world number two Djokovic was also tested, dropping his first set of the tournament in a titanic struggle with Canada’s Denis Shapovalov. The Serbian superstar was made to work by the 14th-ranked young gun before prevailing 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) to help his team to a 3-0 win. His impressive teammate Dusan Lajovic, buoyed by a huge contingent of Serbian fans at Ken Rosewall Arena, had earlier crushed world number 21 Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 6-2 before Viktor Troicki and Nikola Cacic teamed to win the doubles.