Tennis

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal march on with convincing wins at ATP Cup

Novak Djokovic braved extreme humidity to overcome tricky opponent Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2 in the inaugural ATP Cup team event in Brisbane yesterday.

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal was also in a punishing mood and kept his preparations for this month's Australian Open on track by dismantling Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas 6-2, 6-1 in Perth to seal the tie for Spain.

Roberto Bautista Agut had given Spain the lead after an equally one-sided 6-1, 6-2 win against Franco Roncadelli in the US$15 million (S$20.2m) ATP Cup, which features 24 nations competing in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney over 10 days.

Most of the world's top players have assembled for the ATP Cup and are using the event to prepare for the year's first Grand Slam, which starts in Melbourne on Jan 20.

Djokovic had a 15-0 head-to-head record against Monfils before yesterday's meeting and, after surviving an initial onslaught from his opponent, he made sure the record remained blemish-free.

The Serb saved nine break-points on his own serve while converting all three he had against Monfils, who finished 2019 in the top 10, to square the tie after the temperamental Benoit Paire had given France the lead by overcoming Dusan Lajovic 6-2, 6-7 (6/8), 6-4.

"It was definitely one of the most humid conditions I have ever had in my career... was brutal," Djokovic said in a courtside interview.

"Obviously playing Gael is never easy. You are coming into the court knowing that you are going to have a lot of exchanges, a lot of rallies. He is a great fighter and a great friend of mine, so I wish him all the best. Tough luck today."

The Group A tie was decided by a tie-breaker in the doubles match, in which Djokovic and Viktor Troicki defeated Frenchmen Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Nicolas Mahut 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 10-3.

In Sydney, Austria clinched victory over Argentina. World No. 4 Dominic Thiem beat Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) after Dennis Novak rallied from a slow start to beat Guido Pella 0-6, 6-4, 6-4. - REUTERS

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