The big names of men’s tennis, including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem, will kick off their 2021 campaign at the ATP Cup in Melbourne. 12 countries are taking part in the event this year, as opposed to 24 in 2020.
Serbia, Spain, Austria, Russia, Germany, Canada, Greece, Australia, Italy, France, Argentina and Japan are the nations that have qualified for the ATP Cup this year. They have been placed in four groups of three teams each, with the winner of each group qualifying for the semifinals.
This year, the ATP Cup includes every member of the top 10 barring Roger Federer. Gael Monfils, Denis Shapovalov, Pablo Carreno Busta, Milos Raonic and Fabio Fognini are some of the other exciting names in the mix.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic leads defending champions Serbia while 20-time Major champion Rafael Nadal spearheads 2020 runners-up Spain. Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev complete the top four seeds along with their respective nations.
Three fixtures will decide each tie of the 2021 ATP Cup. There will be a singles matchup between the two top-ranked singles players, a second singles matchup between the second-highest-ranked singles players of each country, and finally, a doubles matchup.
The 2021 ATP Cup will take place from 1 to 5 February, and is one of the precursor events to the Australian Open. So without further ado, let us take a look at the draw of this year's tournament:
Group A: Novak Djokovic’s Serbia lead the way
Group members:  Serbia,  Germany,  Canada
Expected semifinalist: Serbia
Serbia - Novak Djokovic, Dusan Lajovic, Filip Krajinovic, Nikola Cacic
Germany - Alexander Zverev, Jan-Lennard Struff, Kevin Krawietz, Andreas Mies
Canada - Denis Shapovalov, Milos Raonic, Peter Polansky, Steven Diez
Novak Djokovic will kick off his 2021 ATP Cup campaign against World No. 7 Alexander Zverev, in what promises to be an enthralling fixture. The Serb will also later have to lock horns with Denis Shapovalov, Canada’s top-ranked singles player.
Germany vs Canada could be a tightly fought fixture, with Zverev likely to go toe-to-toe against Shapovalov. But Jan-Lennard Struff might face an uphill battle against the higher-ranked Milos Raonic.
Needless to say, the defending champions of the ATP Cup will depend greatly on Novak Djokovic, who is expected to win both his singles matches. But Filip Krajinnovic could also be a threat, given his proven ability to rise to the big occasion.
Serbia to defeat Germany 2-1
Serbia to defeat Canada 2-1
Canada to defeat Germany 2-1
Predicted semifinalist: Serbia
Matches to watch out for: Novak Djokovic vs Alexander Zverev, Denis Shapovalov vs Alexander Zverev
Group B: Rafael Nadal spearheads Spain’s ATP Cup title challenge
Group members:  Spain,  Greece,  Australia
Expected semifinalist: Spain
Spain - Rafael Nadal, Roberto Bautista Agut, Marcel Granollers, Pablo Carreno Busta
Greece - Stefanos Tsitsipas, Michail Pervolarakis, Markos Kalovelonis, Petros Tsitsipas
Australia - Alex de Minaur, John Millman, John Peers, Luke Saville
After losing in the final of last year's ATP Cup, Spain will be eager to get their hand on the trophy this time around. They boast of arguably the most complete side with three top-20 players in their ranks, while also featuring Marcel Granollers who is an accomplished doubles player.
In the group fixtures Rafael Nadal will face both Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alex de Minaur. Nadal's three-set epic against De Minaur last year was one of the highlights of the tournament, so we can expect some fireworks this year too.
Greece on the other hand seem like a one-man army. Michail Pervolarakis is a largely unheralded player, while Stefanos Tsitsipas’ younger brother Petros is expected to represent Greece in doubles.
Home favorites Australia meanwhile are likely to offer a little more resistance to Spain. They have tricky customers such as John Millman and Alex de Minaur in their ranks, and the crowd support they get might play a role too.
But all things considered, it is tough to look past Spain as the likely winners of this group.
Spain to defeat Greece 3-0
Spain to defeat Australia 2-1
Australia to defeat Greece 2-1
Predicted semifinalist: Spain
Matches to watch out for: Rafael Nadal vs Stefanos Tsitsipas, Rafael Nadal vs Alex de Minaur, Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Alex de Minaur
Group C: Can Dominic Thiem better Austria's performance in the ATP Cup?
Group members:  Austria,  Italy,  France
Expected semifinalist: Austria
Austria - Dominic Thiem, Dennis Novak, Philipp Oswald, Tristan-Samuel Weissborn
Italy - Matteo Berrettini, Fabio Fognini, Simone Bolelli, Andrea Vavassori
France - Gael Monfils, Benoit Paire, Nicolas Mahut, Edouard Roger-Vasselin
Dominic Thiem has been placed in arguably the toughest group of the top 3 players. Both Italy and France boast of several experienced (if mercurial) operators in Fabio Fognini, Gael Monfils and Benoit Paire.
Thiem’s fixtures against Berrettini and Monfils look tricky on paper. But if their 2020 form is anything to go by, the Austrian should emerge with a 2-0 record in the group.
France undoubtedly has the strongest doubles pair amongst the three teams, with Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin teaming up. As such, if either Monfils or Paire can bring their A-game, France could find themselves well-positioned to make it to the semifinals.
Given the unpredictability of most of the players in this group, we can expect a good amount of excitement from the fixtures involved.
Austria to defeat Italy 2-1
France to defeat Austria 2-1
France to defeat Italy 2-1
Predicted semifinalist: France
Matches to watch out for: Dominic Thiem vs Gael Monfils, Fabio Fognini vs Benoit Paire
Group D: Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev make a fearsome duo for Russia at the ATP Cup
Group members:  Russia,  Argentina,  Japan
Expected semifinalist: Russia
Russia - Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Aslan Karatsev, Evgeny Dosnkoy
Argentina - Diego Schwartzman, Guido Pella, Horacio Zeballos, Maximo Gonzalez
Japan - Kei Nishikori, Yoshihito Nishioka, Ben McLachlan, Toshihide Matsui
Like Spain, Russia boasts of a solid squad in both the singles and doubles departments. With Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev being Russia's top-ranked singles players, it looks unlikely for either Argentina or Japan to beat them.
Andrey Rublev is the strongest second-seeded player by far in this tournament. His presence makes Russia an extremely lethal opponent, especially during the knockout stages.
Argentina has a fairly experienced roster for the 2021 ATP Cup too, but the downside is that most of their players are claycourt specialists. It remains to be seen how well the likes of Diego Schwartzman and Guido Pella fare against the solid hardcourters of Japan and Russia.
With Kei Nishikori back in action, the Island nation will be hoping that they can put up a good show at the ATP Cup. But given Nishikori's recent history of injuries and poor form, not many would be willing to put a wager on them.
Russia to defeat Argentina 2-1
Argentina to defeat Japan 3-0
Russia to defeat Japan 3-0
Predicted semifinalist: Russia
Matches to watch out for: Daniil Medvedev vs Diego Schwartzman
Winners of Group A vs Winners of Group D
Winners of Group B vs Winners of Group C
Serbia vs Russia
Spain vs France
Russia vs Spain