Novak Djokovic made to fight for Serbia’s win, Rafael Nadal secures victory for Spain in ATP Cup

Djokovic digs deep to defeat Kevin Anderson of South Africa in Brisbane

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 04: Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates winning his match against Kevin Anderson of South Africa during day two of the 2020 ATP Cup Group Stage at Pat Rafter Arena on January 04, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
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Novak Djokovic had to battle past Kevin Anderson to secure victory for Serbia over South Africa in the ATP Cup.

World No2 Djokovic managed to beat Anderson 7-6, 7-6 in Group A with a large Serbian crowd at the Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane behind him for the season-opening team event.

But Djokovic also had to control the crowd when things got tense in the first tiebreaker. Spectators called out during rallies and Djokovic had to yell toward the stands. The chair umpire also intervened, asking fans to “show good sportsmanship”.

Rafael Nadal, meanwhile, had an easier time as he secured Spain’s win over Georgia, beating Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 7-5 in Perth. Roberto Bautista Agut got Spain away to a flyer with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Aleksandre Metreveli.

Anderson was coming off an injury-plagued season, including surgery on his right knee, and struggled to keep up as Djokovic dropped just two points in the first three games and took a 4-1 lead.

But the South African broke Djokovic’s serve in the seventh game. He then saved five breakpoints in the eighth game to get back on serve, as the crowd grew tense and started chanting “Nole, Nole, Nole, Nole”.

Rafael Nadal of Spain hits the ball to Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia during their ATP Cup tennis match in Perth, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Trevor Collens)
Rafael Nadal of Spain defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia in Perth. AP

The second set went with serve and ended in another tiebreaker, with Anderson getting a chance to serve for the set at 6-5. But he netted a forehand, and Djokovic finished him off with a curling forehand winner to set up match point and then hit a winning volley.

“Thank you for hanging in there and for showing a passion for this sport,” Djokovic said. “I started off extremely well, Kevin raised his game. His quality of tennis was high. I was pleased with the way I managed to weather the storm.”

Dusan Lajovic earlier defeated Lloyd Harris 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 to give Serbia a 1-0 lead.

“Oh, yeah, it was great, a lot of Serbians out there. We didn’t expect so many of them on the first day but it was like playing in front of the home crowd, almost like Davis Cup,” Lajovic said.

“I think that for the first day for us it went great with the crowd and getting the win and now putting less pressure on Novak. So I think that it started off well for Team Serbia.”

In the earlier Group A match, Gael Monfils bagged France’s win over Chile when he rallied from a break down in the second set to defeat Cristian Garin 6-3, 7-5.

Benoite Paire opened for France with a 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 win over Nicolas Jarry. Chile cut the final margin to 2-1 when Jarry and Garin combined to win the doubles.

Japan swept their opening Group B match with straight-sets wins in both singles and the doubles against Uruguay in Perth. Go Soeda beat Martin Cuevas 6-1, 6-3 and Yoshihito Nishioka had a 6-0, 6-1 win over Pablo Cuevas in the singles matches.

Argentina needed a win in the doubles to edge Poland 2-1 in their Group E match in Sydney. Guido Pella gave Argentina the lead with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 win over Kamil Majchrzak before Hubert Hurkacz leveled with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Diego Schwartzman.

Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni beat Hurkacz and Lukasz Kubot 6-2, 6-4 to secure Argentina’s win.

“We had the responsibility to go and give the point to Argentina, so it was really exciting,” Molteni said. “We are really happy now of playing well and giving the point to Argentina.”

The new 24-team men’s tournament started on Friday in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth and will conclude with a final in Sydney on January 12, leaving players time to fine-tune for the Australian Open in Melbourne.