ATP Cup | Djokovic starts off in right earnest

Day to forget for Thiem; Nadal skips his match because of a back niggle

Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic got his season off to a perfect start with a battling win over Denis Shapovalov in the ATP Cup on Tuesday, but Rafael Nadal pulled out injured and World No. 3 Dominic Thiem crashed to defeat.

The Serbian World No. 1, who will be chasing a ninth Australian Open crown when the year’s first Grand Slam begins on Monday, was pushed hard before coming through 7-5, 7-5 against the hot shot Canadian on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic returned 30 minutes later alongside Filip Frajinovic to play the decisive doubles rubber.

The pair beat Shapovalov and Milos Raonic 7-5, 7-6(4) as defending champion Serbia took the Group A tie against Canada 2-1.

Blistering start

On a cool day, big-serving Raonic got Canada off to a blistering start, crushing Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-4 in 79 minutes to give his team a 1-0 lead.

Nadal was due to face Australia’s Alex de Minaur in an evening Group B clash, but withdrew shortly beforehand with a back niggle.

In his absence, Spanish number two Roberto Bautista Agut stepped up to face de Minaur and rose to the challenge, bouncing back from losing the opening set to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Pablo Carreno Busta earlier beat John Millman 6-2, 6-4 to ensure his country claimed the tie.

While Djokovic tasted victory, US Open champion Thiem got his season off to a disappointing start slumping to a 6-2, 6-4 defeat to Italian World No.10 Matteo Berrettini.

Berrettini was under pressure after Austria took the lead in their Group C clash when Dennis Novak upset World No. 17 Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-2.

It sent the tie to a deciding doubles with Thiem returning alongside Novak only to crash again, losing 6-1, 6-4 to Berrettini and Fognini.

Russia won the day’s other tie against Argentina, with Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev both posting wins.

The results:

Group A: Serbia bt Canada 2-1 [Dusan Lajovic lost to Milos Raonic 3-6, 4-6; Novak Djokovic bt Denis Shapovalov 7-5, 7-5; Djokovic & Filip Krajinovic bt Raonic & Shapovalov 7-5, 7-6(4)]

Group B: Spain bt Australia 3-0 [Pablo Carreno Busta bt John Millman 6-2, 6-4; Roberto Bautista Agut bt Alex de Minaur 4-6, 6-4, 6-4; Carreno Busta & Marc Granollers bt John Peers & Luke Saville 6-4, 7-5]

Group C: Italy bt Austria 2-1 [Fabio Fognini lost to Denis Novak 3-6, 2-6; Matteo Berrettini bt Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-4; Berrettini & Fognini bt Novak & Thiem 6-1, 6-4].

Group D: Russia bt Argentina 2-1 [Daniil Medvedev bt Diego Schwartzman 7-5, 6-3; Andrey Rublev bt Guide Pella 6-1, 6-2; Rublev & Asian Karatsev lost to Maximo Gonzalez & Horacio Zeballos 4-6, 6-7(4)].

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