We are used to the tennis season opening in a conventional way. Tournaments the way they always are, a regular style draw of 32 that is highlighted in the pyramid format. Round after round there is a prize money break down and there are ranking points awarded to each round, etc, etc.
All that was turned on its head with the partnership of Tennis Australia and the ATP and the 2020 season started with the new ATP Cup. Convention had gone right out the window. Brisbane, Perth and Sydney hosted 24 nations that were split into six groups for the round robin competition.
The top nation from each group and the next two highest nations then assembled in Sydney for the quarterfinals and the start of the elimination rounds.
I thought the event would work and it would be entertaining and fun. It went beyond that. I was blown away by the ATP Cup. This was ten days of sensational tennis with an atmosphere at the three stadia being more than tremendous. This ATP Cup is slick and not much else can be compared to it.
“Very fulfilling moments on the court, and of course now we're filled with joy and all the positive emotions,” Novak Djokovic said as the leading player of the new champion nation. “This has been, and I keep repeating that, one of the highlights of my career, because you can't really match any big win in tennis with the win that you get to share with your team, with your friends, with the people that I have known for the biggest part of my life. So, it has been an amazing event.
“Traveling couple cities, having fantastic support in Brisbane, Sydney, off the charts. I have never experienced such a support in my matches ever anywhere, and I have played the biggest stadiums in tennis, and this was something different.”
This was one heck of a way to open the new tennis season as the players lived up to one of the event’s slogans – “for the love of country”. The ATP Cup produced tennis at its highest level as match after match highlighted stand-up-and-cheer points and after ten days of thrills it was xx holding the silverware.
Serbia became the inaugural ATP Cup champions with a 2-1 victory over Spain. It went right down to the wire. Spain got the early advantage when Roberto Bautista Agut defeated Dusan Lajovic 7-5, 6-1. It marked the first time Bautista Agut had won six consecutive tour level matches at a single event.
Spain was buoyed when Rafa Nadal took to the court to play Novak Djokovic. The world’s two best players meeting for the 55th time – Djokovic led the series 28-26 and Sydney was the 16th different city that the two of them have met.
Djokovic has dominated Nadal on hardcourt and after this nothing changed with that. The Serb won 6-2, 7-6 making it the ninth consecutive time he had beaten Nadal on hard court and he made it 19 consecutive sets as well.
“My approach is just go on court, try to play the best way possible, and try to win the match,” Rafa Nadal said. “That's the only approach I can have. What happened in the past is already done. I can't change that, so the only thing that I think when I go on court is to try to do it the best way possible the next time.”
In the doubles Nadal was scheduled to play but he withdrew because he said he was “low on energy”. Replaced by Feliciano Lopez who teamed with Pablo Carreno Busta against Djokovic and Viktor Troicki. Spain started well but the Serbs forged back and closed it out when a big serve from Djokovic to Carreno Busta saw the Spaniard net his return - it was 6-3, 6-4.
“For me personally was really great experience,” Nenad Zimonjic the captain said. “This is a new competition that we have, but what made it really special was the fans that we had. For me was like playing at home.
“Why everything looked so much better than even playing at home was there were so many flags, so many national colours there, and the support was really amazing.
“We witnessed some amazing matches throughout this event, not just in our matches but every other match. The level all the players here they brought and the energy and passion for the sport and passion for playing for their country was really high, and I'm really proud of all of them.”
The players were full of praise of the event and declared it as a perfect preparation for the Australian Open.
Djokovic added: “The pinnacle of whole trip is this trophy, and this is what we fought for. But I think the highlight that I will take is not just the trophy but is the energy and chemistry and friendship we share between each other, and the bond is stronger and stronger obviously with these kind of experiences.”