Djokovic inspires Serbia to ATP Cup quarter-finals; Nadal routs Cuevas - GulfToday

Djokovic inspires Serbia to ATP Cup quarter-finals; Nadal routs Cuevas


Rafael Nadal of Spain in action against Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay during their match at the ATP Cup in Perth on Monday. Associated Press

A near-perfect Novak Djokovic won both his singles and doubles rubbers as Serbia beat France 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals of the inaugural ATP Cup teams event in Brisbane on Monday.

After Benoit Paire beat Dusan Lajovic to give France a 1-0 lead, Djokovic overpowered Gael Monfils in straight sets then teamed with Viktor Troicki to beat Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-3, 6-6 (5/7), 10-3 in a spirited and emotional doubles clash.

The win, combined with South Africa’s earlier defeat of Chile, means Serbia are assured of topping Group A with one round remaining.

Djokovic was in superb touch to level the tie following Lajovic’s three-set loss to Paire in the opening rubber.

He had beaten Monfils in all 15 previous meetings and that perfect record never looked in danger as he dominated the Frenchman from the outset.

Djokovic, one of the best returners in men’s tennis, put relentless pressure on Monfils’ serve throughout, breaking him three times.

Djokovic said both he and Monfils had been affected by the humidity on Pat Rafter Arena.

“It was definitely some of the most humid conditions I’ve ever had in my career. I mean tonight was brutal,” he said.

As the Frenchman began to show the effects of the humidity, Djokovic stepped up the pressure and eased to victory in 90 minutes in front of hundreds of chanting Serbian fans.

Paire was forced to overcome both his opponent and his emotions in his 6-2, 6-7 (6/8), 6-4 win.

Paire won the first set comfortably and broke Lajovic to serve for the set at 5-4.

But the Serbian broke back and then took the tiebreak against an increasingly angry Paire, who promptly smashed his racket and then threw two water bottles onto the court at the change of ends.

French captain Gilles Simon tried to calm him down but it took a courtside visit from Monfils to ease the tensions and Paire regrouped to take the third set and the match.

In the early tie, former world number five Kevin Anderson showed he was on his way back after an injury-ruined 2019 when he thrashed Chile’s Cristian Garin 6-0, 6-3.

Anderson’s win clinched the tie for South Africa following Lloyd Harris’s 6-4, 6-4 victory over Nicolas Jarry.

Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse made it a clean sweep for South Africa when they beat Garin and Jarry in the doubles 1-6, 6-3, 10-7.

Meanwhile, an ominous Rafael Nadal was in cruise control for Spain at the ATP Cup Monday. The Spanish world number one swept past Uruguay’s experienced Pablo Cuevas 6-2, 6-1 in just 73 minutes in Perth to ensure his country won their second consecutive tie at the inaugural 24-team event and moved closer to the quarter-finals.

He came on court after teammate and world number 10 Roberto Bautista Agut made short work of Franco Roncadelli 6-1, 6-2.

“A great match. I played better than the other day. It was a very positive victory against an opponent for who I have a lot of respect,” said 19-time Grand Slam winner Nadal. “I’m super happy.”

Earlier, Djokovic was given a testing workout in his opening clash in Brisbane on Saturday by big-serving South African Kevin Anderson, who took him to two tiebreakers.

He was back to his dominant best against France’s Gael Monfils, but the sapping heat and humidity made the 6-3, 6-2 win harder than the score suggested.

Eight of the 24 nations will make the quarter-finals in Sydney from the round robin -- six group winners and two best runners up.

Other winners Monday included Japan, Croatia, South Africa and Austria.

World number four Dominic Thiem bounced back from a shock loss in his opening match to beat tenacious Diego Schwartzman in two tough sets to steer Austria to victory over Argentina in Sydney.

Earlier, Dennis Novak showed battling qualities to upset world number 25 Guido Pella after losing the first set 6-0. It kept Austria alive in Group E after they lost their opening tie to Croatia.


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