Right from the word go – Novak Djokovic looked hungry and inspired while playing for his country (Serbia) in the inaugural edition of ATP Cup in Australia. After winning several Grand Slam trophies (16 to be precise), the world number two led Serbia to a historic victory over Spain in the first edition of ATP Cup final on Sunday, sparking unbelievable scenes of ecstasy inside the Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney.
During the course of final, the 32-year-old defeated his long-time rival Rafael Nadal 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) before teaming with Viktor Troicki to take the deciding doubles rubber 6-3, 6-4 over Spanish pair of Feliciano Lopez and Pablo Carreno Busta.
Courtesy the win over Nadal, Djokovic extended his head-to-head record against the current world number one Spaniard 29-26.
Earlier, Roberto Bautista Agut improved to 6-0 at the ATP Cup and gave Spain a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three tie versus Serbia. Bautista Agut beat Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic 7-5, 6-1.
Appearing for the first time in Sydney in a decade, the 16-times grand slam champion said he’d never played in such an atmosphere as he had in front of fervent Serbian fans over the past three days. “I’ll remember this experience for the rest of my life. It’s one of the nicest moments in my career,” said Djokovic, who close to tears after winning the doubles tie versus Spain.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have an amazing career these last 15 years, but playing for the team, playing for my country with some of my best friends for a long time, you can’t match that. It’s too special.”
Nadal pulled out of the doubles, saying he was low on energy after a total of eight singles and doubles matches in nine days.
“I have been playing a lot of tennis the last couple of days. My teammates have been playing great yesterday. My level of energy is a little bit lower than usual, because I played long yesterday, very long before yesterday, very long in [Perth] the last day,” Nadal said.
The doubles event drew the curtain on the tournament that proved a big hit with players and fans, dishing up competitive matches driven by the passion of athletes representing their home countries.
Some US 15 million in prize money was at stake along with up to 750 singles and 250 doubles ATP rankings points, with new rules trialled including on-court coaching and team zones in the corners of the court.
Djokovic’s ninth consecutive hardcourt win over Nadal confirmed the world No.2 as a hot favourite to land an unprecedented eighth Australian Open crown in three weeks’ time.
The super Serb has won 19 consecutive sets on hard surfaces against Nadal since last losing to the 19-times major champion in the 2013 US Open final.