Spain, the overwhelming favourites in Group B, will take on the Nikoloz Basilashvili-led Georgia in their first rubber. The Nadal-Basilashvili match-up is set to be one of the highlights of the evening.
The fourth career meeting between the two players will have the Georgian looking for his first win over the World No. 1. And while Basilashvili has managed to offer a competitive performance in the duo's only previous hardcourt meeting, their level of experience and success on the surface remain highly unmatched.
Basilashvili, however, will carry some sort of confidence coming into the match-up, having finished at No. 26 after a career-best season in 2019 (ranking-wise).
It is early days into the 2020 season, and players are trying new things and still getting used to playing full matches after a two-month break. There is bound to be some rusty play, and anyone can capitalize on that.
Had it not been for the similar baseline-oriented style of play that the two share, it would have been easier to give either of them a strategic edge. However, given Nadal's experience, fitness and consistency, he would have to be considered the stronger player in this matchup.
If he gets into his groove, Nadal will be very hard to stop. The Spaniard is staring at history in the 2020 season as he can become the first of the current field to have won all Grand Slams multiple times, come the Australian Open.
That must have been on his mind in the off-season too, and it will be interesting to see if his team has made any tweaks to his game to suit the Australian hardcourts. The ATP Cup is as good as a testing ground can get, and Basilashvili as good an opening opponent as any.
Prediction: Nadal to win in two tight sets.Published 03 Jan 2020, 14:06 IST