ATP Cup: Novak Djokovic keeps Serbia alive, Spain reach semis

Novak Djokovic rallied to overhaul Alexander Zverev 6-7(3), 6-2, 7-5 in a high-quality ATP Cup clash and help defending champions Serbia level their knockout tie against Germany after Spain qualified for the semi-finals in Melbourne on Friday. 

A year after crashing out of the inaugural ATP Cup with a huge tally of double-faults, Alexander Zverev’s serving demons returned under pressure at Rod Laver Arena when he was broken twice late in the deciding set. Uncharacteristically, Djokovic also dropped serve when looking to close out the match but made no mistake on his second chance, as Zverev conceded with a backhand that sailed long. 

“I thought it was a great match. I thought we both played well,” Djokovic said on court after extending his unbeaten record to 11-0 at the ATP Cup. 

“He definitely had a big serving match. It was so difficult to play against him today. Obviously in the last couple of games we were both quite tight.” 

The Group A tie will be decided by the doubles, with Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff having beaten Dusan Lajovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the earlier match at Rod Laver Arena. The winners will join Spain, Russia and Italy in the semi-finals. 

With Rafa Nadal still sidelined with a back problem, Pablo Carrena Busta guided a depleted Spain into the last four by claiming a 6-3 6-4 win against Greece’s Michail Pervolarakis at John Cain Arena. Though eliminated, Greece ended up winning the tie 2-1, with Stefanos Tsitsipas easing past Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 7-5. 

Spain retired after losing the opening game of the doubles, handing Greece the win. 

Khachanov in quarters 

Second seed Karen Khachanov battled past South African Kevin Anderson 6-3, 7-6(5) to reach the quarter-finals of the Great Ocean Road Open on Friday. The 24-year-old Russian did not drop serve throughout the contest and secured the only break of the match midway through the opening set of the Australian Open warm-up event. 

Khachanov next faces unseeded Dutchman Botic Van de Zandschulp, who upset American sixth seed Reilly Opelka in two tie-break sets. In other round of 16 matches, Italian teenager Jannik Sinner downed Aljaz Bedene 7-6(6), 6-2, while home favourite Jordan Thompson sailed past Spaniard Mario Vilella Martinez 6-4, 6-4. 

All quarter-final matches at the event will take place later on Friday. Play was suspended on Thursday when more than 500 players and officials were tested for COVID-19 after a worker at one of the quarantine hotels in Melbourne contracted the novel coronavirus.

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Sagar Biswas

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