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AFP
January 12, 2020

Spain to play Serbia in ATP Cup decider

Sports

AFP
January 12, 2020

SYDNEY: Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will face each other in the final of the inaugural ATP Cup tennis tournament after winning epic three-set matches on Saturday to steer Spain and Serbia into the decider.

World number one Nadal ground down pumped-up Australian Alex de Minaur to guide the Davis Cup champions through their semi-final while Djokovic battled past Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.

Under the format of the innovative team event in Sydney, the top-ranked singles players from each country play each other, ensuring the two legends clash for a 55th time since their first showdown in 2006.

World number two Djokovic leads the head-to-heads 28-26, including beating his arch-rival in the Australian Open final last year.

Nadal outlasted De Minaur 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 after unflappable team-mate Roberto Bautista Agut tamed Nick Kyrgios 6-1, 6-4. Djokovic had an equally tough time against impressive fifth-ranked Medvedev, coming through a top-draw contest 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 on the back of Dusan Lajovic beating Karen Khachanov 7-5, 7-6 (7/1).

De Minaur had a furious start, breaking Nadal in the opening game of the match and then keeping the pressure on, restricting the Spaniard’s trademark forehand to take the first set in 46 minutes.

Full of energy, his serve was on fire and he was winning the baseline rallies, but Nadal weathered the onslaught and finally won a break point, converting to take the second set.

De Minaur was deflated and the fight went out of him as the 19-time Grand Slam showed him who was boss, racing through the deciding set. Unassuming world number 10 Bautista Agut was in control and all over the groundstrokes of temperamental Kyrgios, who looked lost as he crashed 6-1 in the first set.

Sixteen-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic, who is targeting an eighth Australian Open title this month, had looked on track for a comfortable win against Medvedev after sailing thr­ough the opening set and breaking in the first game of the second.