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Tennis News• Rafa Pulls Out And Novak’s Pumped • Serbia, Spain, and Russia off to Strong Starts at 2021 ATP Cup

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic reacts after defeating Denis Shapovalov of Canada at the ATP Cup in Melbourne Park. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT

By Ricky Dimon

2020 ATP Cup champion Serbia kicked off its title defense with a 2-1 victory over Canada on Tuesday afternoon.

Novak Djokovic came to the rescue after Dusan Lajovic lost the opening rubber to Milos Raonic in straight sets. Djokovic defeated Denis Shapovalov 7-5, 7-5 before teaming up with Filip Krajinovic to beat Shapovalov and Raonic 7-5, 7-6(4).

“It was a very close match,” the world No. 1 said of his singles success. “Playing Shapo is always a great challenge on hard courts. He’s such a dynamic, explosive player; very talented. I thought we played on a very high level, so I’m really pleased with how I’ve started the season. This is the best way to kickstart the season, playing for your country.”

Both Serbia and Spain laid the groundwork for a possible rematch in the ATP Cup final, as the Spaniards followed suit on Tuesday night by sweeping Australia 3-0.

Rafael Nadal pulled out (not necessarily from the whole event, but at least in this opening tie) with a back issue, thus switching up the singles matches. Robert Bautista Agut became Spain’s No. 1 player and he knocked off Alex de Minaur 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. That was preceded by Pablo Carreno Busta’s 6-2, 6-4 rout of John Millman.

Pablo Carreno Busta was a straight-sets winner for Spain, which played without world No. 2 Rafael Nadal. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON

“All credit to both Spaniards, they played extremely well,” Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt praised. “Carreno Busta was hitting the ball like a dream the whole match [and] looked very comfortable on the hard court out there. John had a couple of chances there, [but] wasn’t quite able to take it. He was too good tonight.”

Carreno Busta and Marcelo Granollers made it 3-0 with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over John Peers and Luke Saville.

“Everybody knows that to have Rafa on the team is a pleasure,” Bautista Agut noted. “It’s a privilege to be in the team with him. We can learn a lot of things staying around him. He has been fighting 20 years in a row and we are there to complete the team, to be there, and to fight. I think Pablo and I today did a great job.”

Russia had its full arsenal of weapons and used them to make quick work of Argentina. Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev rolled to respective straight-set wins at the expense of Guido Pella and Diego Schwartzman.

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