Djokovic, Nadal dig deep

Serb stages comeback win in 'home' match; Spaniard loses singles but rallies in doubles

SYDNEY • Novak Djokovic had an almost full house on his side at the Ken Rosewell Arena, and felt like he needed to be a responsible host for his guests yesterday.

When the ATP Cup quarter-final match went to a tiebreaker after 21/2 hours, the world No. 2, who was playing in Sydney for the first time in a decade, seized control by winning the first five points.

He then completed a comeback 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) win over Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

His teammate Dusan Lajovic had earlier beaten Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 6-2 as Serbia sealed their spot in today's semi-finals against Russia.

Djokovic said: "That was so close, it could have gone in a different way easily. (Shapovalov) was playing terrific tennis. It felt, not a little bit, fully like I'm playing at home.

"I mean, Brisbane we had amazing support - but this has taken it to a different level. All the Serbian people came out today.

"They were engaged sometimes a little bit too much, and Denis was rightfully annoyed at times, you know, with the sounds, but it was a Davis Cup-like atmosphere, really.

"I mean, the ATP Cup brings this kind of opportunity for players to experience something they don't experience in 90 per cent of the tournaments."

Given the level of support, Serbia are again likely to enjoy an almost home-court advantage over the Russians, so captain Marat Safin is counting on fatigue to work in his team's favour today.

They have had an extra day's rest and after Djokovic's gruelling win, he is hopeful "Novak will not recover well".

Safin said: "Daniil (Medvedev), I think he will have a chance tomorrow, especially (because of) the long match.

"They are playing tomorrow morning... we try to do it in the first two matches. I honestly believe... that we will win in two (singles) matches."

In the later match, Rafael Nadal lost for only the second time since last July, before bouncing back in the deciding doubles as Spain beat Belgium 2-1 to set up a last-four clash with hosts Australia today.

The world No. 1 fell 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) to 11th-ranked David Goffin, who avenged teammate Kimmer Coppejans' 6-1, 6-4 opening loss to Roberto Bautista Agut.

However, Nadal picked himself up, partnering Pablo Carreno Busta to edge out Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen 6-7 (7-9), 7-5, 10-7 to move Spain a step closer towards their second successive team victory after last November's Davis Cup triumph.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2020, with the headline 'Djokovic, Nadal dig deep'. Print Edition | Subscribe