BRISBANE • Novak Djokovic had to endure a frustrating night before he finally secured victory for Serbia in their opening ATP Cup clash against South Africa.
The 32-year-old had to battle through two tiebreaks yesterday before beating Kevin Anderson 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6) in 2hr 19min, during which he lost his temper at supporters in the stands.
The Serb was perhaps fortunate to escape a warning when he hit a ball into the roof, and also snapped at fans when he was interrupted by them calling out in the middle of a point during the first tiebreak.
He even exploded and swiped his racket furiously, but he was much calmer and thanked the fans when the match was over.
"What a way to start the year," said the world No. 2.
"I want to thank, first of all, all the Serbian and Australian fans who came out. Thank you guys for hanging in there, it's almost 11 o'clock at night. You stayed all the way through, you were patient, you showed passion for this sport so it's a pleasure to play in front of you."
Anderson, who had not played since Wimbledon last year, gave him a tough time with many shots painting the line.
But Djokovic, who is seeking a record eighth Australian Open crown later this month, showed his quality in the end and extended his head-to-head record against the South African to 9-2.
He also paid tribute to his opponent, who had surgery for a knee injury after his third-round exit at Wimbledon.
"I don't know much about his condition, but I told him at the net it's great to see him play this way," he said. "I started off extremely well, Kevin raised his game. I was pleased with the way I managed to weather the storm.
"Let's hope he stays healthy."
Serbia had earlier taken a 1-0 lead with Dusan Lajovic's 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 win over Lloyd Harris.
They ended the night with a 6-3, 6-2 win by Viktor Troicki and Nikola Cacic in the dead-rubber doubles over Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse.
The ATP Cup has 24 countries split into six groups across Brisbane, Perth and Sydney, with eight teams emerging from the round robin to compete in a knockout phase in Sydney until the winner is crowned.
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal also clinched an opening win for Spain, beating Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 7-5 in Perth.
Roberto Bautista Agut got the Spaniards away to a flyer with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Aleksandre Metreveli.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ASSOCIATED PRESS
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