The 2020 ATP Cup heralded the return of ATP team competition for the first time since Dusseldorf hosted the ATP World Team Cup from 1978 to 2012.
The brainchild of ATP director, Mr. Chris Kermode, the inaugural edition of the ATP Cup in 2020 was contested by 24 nations in the Australian cities of Perth, Brisbane, and Sydney. 16 of the contesting teams were European, followed by 3 teams from South America (Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay), 2 teams from North America (USA and Canada), one each from Asia (Japan) and Africa (South Africa), and hosts Australia.
Each of the 24 teams were placed in six groups of four teams each, with all the group winners and the two-best second-placed teams progressing to the quarterfinals. Each tie consisted of two single's and one double's match, with the team winning at least two matches deemed to have won the tie.
4 of the 6 group winners - Serbia, Spain, Russia, and Australia made a 3-0 clean sweep in the group-stage while the quarter-final line-up was completed by the duo of Belgium and Canada. Bulgaria were the only third-placed team to win 2 of their 3 ties while Austria, who finished last in their group, recorded the only win by a fourth-placed team.
In to the knockout stage of the competition in Sydney, commencing with the quarter-finals, all the four teams who remained perfect in the group-stage progressed to the semi-finals where Serbia took on Russia and Spain locked horns with hosts Australia. Serbia and Spain set up a title showdown where Serbia fought back from a point down to win the next two matches to become the first champions of the ATP Cup.
Let us meet the 3 standout players during the course of the tournament.
#3 Viktor Troicki: 5 wins out of 6
Once a top-20 ATP singles player, Troicki's singles ranking had plummetted from a career-high no. 12 in 2011 to outside the top-100. However, the 33-year-old excelled on the doubles arena at the 2020 ATP Cup, winning 5 of his 6 matches, as Team Serbia lifted the inaugural edition of the competition.
Troicki combined with Nikola Cacic to beat the South African pair of Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse in straight sets, paired with good friend Novak Djokovic to overcome France's Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vesselin in a match tiebreak before losing his only match of the ATP Cup when he and Cacic lost to Nicolas Jarry and Alejandro Tabilo of Chile in straight sets.
The bespectacled Troicki along with Cacic dispatched Canada's Peter Polansky and Adil Shamasdin in straight sets and also did likewise against the Russian pair of Teymuraz Gabashvili and Konstantin Kravchuk as Serbia romped to the final with consecutive 3-0 wins.
In the final against Spain, following Roberto Bautista Agut's win over Dusan Lajovic, Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal to restore parity before the good friends fought back from a break deficit to down Feliciano Lopez and Pablo Carreno Busta in straight sets as Serbia celebrated their first success in a tennis team competition since their maiden Davis Cup triumph in 2010.
#2 Roberto Bautista Agut: 6 wins in 6 matches
The unheralded Roberto Bautista Agut, more than happy to cede limelight to his illustrious compatriot Rafael Nadal continued his love affair with team competitions, winning all 6 of his singles matches at the 2020 ATP Cup following his 2 wins at the Davis Cup finals in Madrid last year.
One of two players to win all his 6 singles matches at the ATP Cup, the other being Novak Djokovic, Bautista Agut was the only one not to concede a set in any of his matches. The world no. 9 provided Spain the lead in each of their 6 ties (3 group-stage matches, quarterfinal, semifinal, final), laying the perfect spadework for the top-ranked Nadal to clinch victory.
Bautista Agut beat Aleksandre Metreveli of Georgia, Franco Roncadelli of Uruguay, Go Soeda of Japan, Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium, Nick Kyrgios of Australia, and Dusan Lajovic of Serbia - all in straight sets, with Lajovic (5) taking the most games in a set off the Spaniard in the competition.
#1 Novak Djokovic: 8 wins in 8 matches
World no. 2 Novak Djokovic launched the perfect preparation for his title defence at the 2020 Australian Open, winning all 6 of his singles matches, to go with his 2/2 record in doubles play with good friend Viktor Troicki.
In his first match of the newest competition on the ATP tour, Djokovic was taken to tiebreaks in both sets by South Africa's Kevin Anderson before beating Frenchman Gael Monfils and Chile's Cristian Garin with considerably less exertion.
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Djokovic needed a third set tiebreak to get past young Canadian Denis Shapovalov before meeting his sternest test in the competition against another young player in Russia's Daniil Medvedev. In an intense physical battle, with neither player willing to cede an inch from the baseline, there were lung-busting rallies aplenty as Medvedev looked set to continue his 2-match winning record against the recently deposed World no.1.
But the Serb turned on beast mode and displayed his big match pedigree in the big moments, escaping break-back points when serving for the match in the third set, one of which included winning a stunning cat-and-mouse exchange as Medvedev looked all set to get back on serve in one of the points of the tournament.
In the final against Spain, Djokovic extended his hard court winning run over Nadal to 9 matches to set up a doubles decider where the Serb combined with good friend Viktor Troicki to beat the Spanish combine of Feliciano Lopez and Pablo Carreno Busta in straight sets as Serbia lifted the inaugural edition of the ATP Cup.
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