SYDNEY • The inaugural ATP Cup will get a dream final today when the world's top two men lock horns for the first time this year.
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal weathered an early barrage before beating Australia's Alex de Minaur 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 to clinch Spain's semi-final win yesterday and secure a spot in today's decider against Serbia.
Earlier, second-ranked Novak Djokovic beat Daniil Medvedev 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 to seal the win over Russia.
Nadal led Spain to the Davis Cup title at home last November and is aiming for back-to-back triumphs in international team events.
But the 33-year-old is wary of his great rival Djokovic, 32, in what would be their 55th meeting.
"We know it's going to be a super tough final against Novak who likes to play here a lot," said Nadal, who trails record seven-time Australian Open champion Djokovic's 26-28 in their head-to-head.
"He's had a lot of great results and Serbia have a great team. They're playing very well.
"So let's see, we hope to be ready. It's going to be a tough battle."
Nadal endured the 20-year-old de Minaur's relentless attacking play for most of the first two sets until a significant momentum swing.
After saving a break point at 5-5, he won six consecutive games to clinch the second set and take a 4-0 lead in the third.
He did not want any repeat of the marathon quarter-final against Belgium. He lost to David Goffin for just his second singles defeat since the Wimbledon semi-final loss to Roger Federer. And it was only until after 1am that he and Pablo Carreno Busta won the deciding doubles in a match tiebreaker.
Rafael Nadal's head-to-head against Novak Djokovic going into their clash in the ATP Cup final.
So, after being broken by de Minaur, he broke back immediately and then served out in 2hr 13min in front of almost 9,500 people at Ken Rosewall Arena.
Roberto Bautista Agut had earlier beaten Nick Kyrgios 6-1, 6-4 to put Spain ahead. They also won the dead-rubber doubles.
Earlier, Djokovic was at his battling best to topple gutsy fifth-ranked Medvedev after being given the ideal platform by a composed Dusan Lajovic, who ground down Karen Khachanov 7-5, 7-6 (7-1) in the opening singles.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion came through a top-draw contest 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 before Serbia took the doubles for a 3-0 sweep.
Djokovic said of his match with Medvedev: "Exciting, exhausting, joyful, dreadful all at once.
"It was a lot of rallies and it was very exhausting. Very physical battle, but also mental battle.
"Definitely one of the most exciting matches I've played against him or any of the top players in the last few years."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ASSOCIATED PRESS
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