Spain Sets Up ATP Cup Final Against Serbia

Rafael Nadal celebrates the win for Spain (photo: ATP Cup)

SYDNEY, January 11, 2020 (by Alessandro Boroch)

During Saturday’s night session at the inaugural ATP Cup, Spain beat Australia 3-0 in front of their packed home crowd in Sydney to set up a final battle against Serbia.

Nick Kyrgios and Roberto Bautista Agut opened proceedings on Ken Rosewall Arena. A tight, highly competitive match was expected beforehand, but this perception was far from reality in the end. After just 80 minutes, Bautista Agut emerged victorious, beating the Australian by the noticeably score of 6-1, 6-4.

“Nick is a great talent so to beat him in two sets means I did a great job. My game plan was trying to make him under pressure to play every point and to make him work the whole match,” Bautista Agut said in the post-match interview. “Tennis is a tough job. We are used to coming to the court very tired and having to still play and give our best on the court and that’s what Spain does every time.”

During the match, the World No. 10 hit four aces, won 80 per-cent (35/44) first serve points and had to face just one breakpoint, which he managed to save successfully. Kyrgios, on the other hand, struck a respectable 13 aces but was still unable to place his serve well enough throughout the entire match, winning just 55 per-cent (30/55) of his service points.

In the end, Kyrgios finished the match with 24 winners to 27 unforced errors. Bautista Agut improved to a 5-0 record in singles at the ATP Cup.

Nadal survives a mental battle

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal and Aussie No. 1 Alex De Minaur were next up on court in front of a packed, loud cheering crowd. Both already faced each other twice at Grand Slams, with Nadal having prevailed 3-0 in those matches (Wimbledon 2018 and Australian Open 2019).

This time, however, the match was very different compared to their previous meetings. From the first point on, De Minaur played very aggressively and tried to avoid as many long rallies as possible, just as David Goffin did against Nadal on Friday night with great success.

The-20-year-old Next Gen star played the tennis of his life and took the opening set by the score of 6-4 without allowing the Spaniard a single break point.

In the second set, too, the Australian showed an amazing level of tennis, continued serving well and producing unbelievable strokes. He was in full control of the match until 6-4, 5-6. From then on, the whole momentum has flipped. After two unforced errors from De Minaur, Nadal managed to get his first break point of the match, probably in the best possible moment for him. The Mallorcan prevailed in a shaky rally with lots of frame hits to force a deciding set.

De Minaur was not capable of holding up his brilliant level in the decider, went on winning just five of the next twenty points, mainly also due to Nadal, who was regaining strength. After two hours and thirteen minutes, the 19-time Grand Slam champion completed his comeback over the Australian, winning 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 to secure Spain’s ticket into the final and set up a battle with Serbia.

“It was tough at the beginning of the match as Alex was playing at a very high level and my energy was a little lower than usual. Yesterday was a very long day in heavy conditions,” Nadal said. “It’s going to be a super tough final against Serbia. Novak likes to play here and Serbia has a great team and is playing very well. But Roberto played an amazing match this afternoon and we have a good team, so we are ready for it.”

In the doubles rubber, Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez defeated Chris Guccione and John Peers 6-2, 6-7(6), [10-4] in an hour and 32 minutes.