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Tennis News • Novak Djokovic, and Rafa Nadal Give ATP Cup Star Power, but Depth will be Important

Novak Djokovic and partner Viktor Troicki clinched Serbia’s 2020 ATP Cup championship defeating Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez of Spain at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney.

By Ricky Dimon

How good is the 2021 ATP Cup going to be? Well, you won’t have to wait long to find out.

Every one of the top four players in the world will be in action on Day 1 of the second annual event, which begins next Tuesday in Melbourne. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, and Daniil Medvedev are all taking the court. Djokovic is hoping to lead Serbia to a second consecutive title, while Nadal and Spain–the 2019 Davis Cup champions–are looking to go one step further at the ATP Cup after finishing runner-up last January.

Serbia will kick off its title defense against Canada, with Djokovic facing Denis Shapovalov. Nadal is going up against Alex de Minaur in the Spain-Australia match, Thiem (Austria) awaits Matteo Berrettini (Italy), and Medvedev faces familiar foe Diego Schwartzman as Russia battles Argentina.

Each tie is two out of three matches–two singles and one doubles. Although depth is not as important as it was in the Davis Cup days of old (in best-of-five ties), it remains important.

“I think for us [the key is] going to be depth,” said Milos Raonic, who is Canada’s No. 2 player behind Shapovalov. “That’s going to be important. I believe we’re probably up there among a few of the top teams that have a higher average ranking compared to other teams. Especially when you have to win two out of the three matches, I think that could be a great advantage for us and something that pays dividends.”

Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts during his match against Novak Djokovic in the ATP Cup finals.

While Serbia is obviously top-heavy with Djokovic leading the way, Dusan Lajovic is a capable second singles player. Lajovic compiled a 4-2 record at the 2020 ATP Cup, including a semifinal victory over Russia’s Karen Khachanov.

“Representing your country is an honor that you only have once or twice in a year,” the world No. 26 commented. “The whole concept of being in a team, it’s a very rare opportunity for us. You’re not playing for yourself; you’re playing for your team. And in this case, you’re playing for the people who are also your friends–and that makes it even more special.”

It will be special for everyone this season. That it is even happening is a borderline miracle, requiring a huge effort from Tennis Australia amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. With all of the star power on hand in Melbourne, though, it will surely be worth it.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.