ATP Cup 2020: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev suffer losses on opening day
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and John Isner were three of the stars who ended up on the losing side as the first edition of the ATP Cup, featuring teams from 24 countries, got underway in Brisbane, Sydney and Perth on Friday.
Canada 3-0 Greece
For Tsitsipas, the new season started in a completely contrasting fashion from his last match of 2019. The 21-year-old Greek ace, who went on to win the prestigious season finale, slumped to a surprising loss to fellow NextGen star and World No. 15 Denis Shapovalov to officially begin 2020.
With the Canadian serving as many as 12 aces, Tsitsipas couldn't make any in-roads into his game and went down 6-7(6), 6-7(4). With the World No. 6 being the biggest hope for the Greek squad, his defeat erased whatever little chances they had against Canada, who looked strong in all the other rubbers.
World No. 487 Michail Pervolarakis was absolutely no match for the 21st ranked Felix Auger-Aliassime, who blasted past him 6-1, 6-3.
Auger-Aliassime then teamed up with Shapovalov to thoroughly outclass the Greek pair of Pervolarakis and Petros Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-3 that gave the Canadians a flawless 3-0 win over the Greeks.
Australia 3-0 Germany
Tsitsipas was not the only top star to lose in Brisbane on the inaugural day of the ATP Cup. 2018 ATP Finals winner Alexander Zverev too had the same fate, albeit his course to the loss was way different from that of Tsitsipas.
Zverev looked well on his way to a routine victory over rising star Alex de Minaur when the Germans took on Australians. Up 6-4, 4-2 and with a couple of game points in hand, Zverev imploded and failed to recover in time. After a battle for 2 hours 44 minutes, the World No. 7 eventually embraced a shocking 6-4, 6-7(3), 2-6 defeat to the World No. 18 in a match that he had control of for the most part.
In the other singles match of the tie, Nick Kyrgios faced no hassle in dismissing the challenge of World No. 29 Jan-Lennard Struff. Powering 20 aces past the German, who himself produced 15, Kyrgios cruised to a 6-4, 7-6(4) result in the Aussies' favour. Chris Guccione and John Peers then joined forces to pull off a convincing 6-3, 6-4 win against Germany's Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies. It helped complete a 3-0 whitewash for Australia over Germany.
Norway 2-1 USA
Fans in Perth too witnessed a surprising outcome as Norway beat the much-fancied USA 2-1. Very few envisaged World No. 54 Casper Ruud beating the 19th ranked John Isner. But the 21-year-old's guts, gumption and steely nerves gifted him the 6-7(3), 7-6(10), 7-5 win after 2 hours 43 minutes of highly-quality action.
Even though Taylor Fritz did beat Viktor Durasovic 6-2, 6-2, it did not help Team USA's cause as the Norwegians ultimately stunned USA when Ruud and Durasovic beat Austin Krajicek and Rajeev Ram 4-6, 6-3, 10-5.
Russia 3-0 Italy
Russia pretty much stayed true to predictions when they prevailed over Italy 3-0. Former Paris Masters champion Karen Khachanov was too strong for World No. 84 Stefano Travaglia in a 7-5, 6-3 win. US Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev had to work much harder in his clash with the reigning Monte Carlo Masters champion Fabio Fognini. The veteran Italian had the upper hand in the early part of this encounter but Medvedev stormed back to level the match at one set apiece. The Russian then summoned all his courage to complete the comeback with a 1-6, 6-1, 6-3 win.
Khachanov and Medvedev then kicked off their partnership on a grand note with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Simone Bolelli and Paolo Lorenzi.
Bulgaria 2-1 Great Britain
In Sydney, Grigor Dimitrov led the Bulgarians to a 2-1 win over Great Britain. The 2019 US Open semi-finalist was on the backfoot when the match began but slowly gained in confidence to secure a 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Dan Evans.
Great Britain's promising talent, Cameron Norrie did not disappoint and delivered a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win against World No. 423 Dimitar Kuzmanov. The doubles rubber was a nerve-wracking affair where Dimitrov and Alexander Lazarov held their nerves to pull off a 7-6(5), 6-7(2), 11-9 win over the higher-ranked Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury.
Belgium 3-0 Moldova
The Belgians had no problems in motoring their way past the Moldovans. In one of the one-sided ties of the day, David Goffin demolished Radu Albot 6-4, 6-1. Steve Darcis staved off a mid-game comeback from Alexander Cozbinov to win 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-5.
Belgium's Sander Gille and Jordan Vliegen then made it 3-0 for their country when they edged Albot and Kozbinov 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 11-9.