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Rafa Nadal Rebounds In Doubles For Spain, Djokovic Leads Serbia to ATP Cup Semifinals

By Ricky Dimon

Can Team Spain make it two team-competition titles in two months?

The reigning Davis Cup champs are still alive at the inaugural ATP Cup, but they were on life support for a moment during Friday’s quarterfinals against Belgium in Sydney.

After Roberto Bautista Agut routed Kimmer Coppejans 6-1, 6-4 in the opening rubber, the Spaniards had a golden chance to seal the deal with Rafael Nadal playing the second leg. David Goffin, however, had other ideas. The Belgian scored a 6-4, 7-6(3) upset to extend the tie to a decisive doubles rubber.

With momentum in hand, the Belgians watched their doubles pair of Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille race to a set advantage over Nadal and Pablo Carreno Busta. Vliegen and Gille even got a look at two break points in the eighth game of the second set for what would commanding lead at Spain’s expense. Both were saved, however, and the Nadal-Carreno Busta duo eventually broke at 5-5 on a video review overrule at 0-40. From there it was all Spain, which soon capped off a 6-7(7), 7-5, 10-7 comeback.

“Coming from Perth we didn’t have a lot of time to adapt and today the conditions were very heavy with humidity,” Nadal commented. “Playing against David in the singles was a very difficult thing. But we are super happy to be in the semifinals. We’re excited to play a very tough one against Australia. We will give our best like we have done all through our careers.”

The other semifinal will pit Serbia against Russia after Novak Djokovic led his country to a defeat of Canada earlier on Friday. Djokovic outlasted Denis Shapovalov in a final-set tiebreaker, clinching the tie following Dusan Lajovic’s opening defeat of Felix Auger-Aliassime.

“It was an amazing match,” Djokovic assessed. “One of the closest matches I’ve played against Denis. It was very even match. He played fantastic, very aggressive, served great. We fought both until the last shot.”

Djokovic and company enjoyed massive crowd support against the Canadians, and the Serbian fans should be especially out in force when he faces Medvedev. After all, Medvedev played the villain role once again during his match against Diego Schwartzman through various incidents of misbehavior.

“When you have most of the stadium backing you up after every point, it makes a significant difference in terms of how you feel on the court,” Djokovic noted. “Of course, you’re focussing on your game and what needs to be done tactically, but at the same time, you’re playing in a stadium. If the majority of the stadium is backing you up, it’s easier. You find that strength. You find that motivation.

“When you’re down, they lift you up. You feel more alert, more responsible because so many people are backing you up and supporting you that you have to deliver your best game. You want to play in this kind of atmosphere all the time, but it’s not always possible. That’s why I try to cherish these kind of moments and take them with me anywhere I go.”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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