Nadal and Djokovic begin to win in the ATP Cup
SYDNEY: Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic began his preparation for the Australian Open with victories in straight sets in the ATP Cup Saturday, but the world's number four, Dominic Thiem, fell to defeat.
Nadal, the top-ranked, had few problems with Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, who ran to a 6-3, 7-5 victory, while longtime rival Djokovic received more evidence from South African Kevin Anderson before beating him 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (8/6).
Their victories assured that Spain and Serbia closed their ties in the inaugural event of the 24-nation team, where countries are divided into six groups in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.
The first eight of the round robin pass to the knockout stage in Sydney before one is finally crowned as the winner.
France, Argentina, Croatia and Japan also began their tournament in style, earning their ties to join the winners of the first day Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Norway, Russia and Australia.
I'm super, super happy to be here in Perth for the first time in my life. It is an incredible arena and a large crowd, said Nadal.
It was the first difficult game of the season, it was not an easy start. But I think I played a great game.
Previously, teammate Roberto Bautista Agut crushed an unfortunate Aleksandre Metreveli 6-0, 6-0.
Serbian superstar Djokovic needed to produce some of his best tennis to say goodbye to the great Anderson, admitting it was a test encounter.
"What a way to start the year," he said. "He was on fire tonight -- I think the quality of tennis was quite high. "I was very pleased with the way I kind of weathered the storm."
His teammate Dusan Lajovic beat Lloyd Harris 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Thiem, from Austria, predicted this week that 2020 would be the year in which Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer control would end in the Grand Slam titles.
He is tipped as one of those who could make the breakthrough, along with Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas. But all three have been beaten in their opening ATP Cup clashes.
Thiem, who won five titles last year, had six break points in the third set against Borna Coric of Croatia, but failed to convert any of them.
It's really good to beat him because at the end of last season I wasn't playing well and this will give me a lot of confidence, said Coric, ranked 28 and who suffered six straight losses in late 2019.
His Croatian teammate Marin Cilic, finalist at the 2018 Australian Open, used his experience to defeat Austrian Dennis Novak 6-7 (7/4), 6-4, 6-4, and make sure Croatia won the draw in Sydney .
The most dominant victory of the day was courtesy of Japan, which does not have the injured Kei Nishikori, but crushed Uruguay 3-0 in Perth, leaving only 15 games in his two singles and a double of rubber.
Yoshihito Nishioka defeated Pablo Cuevas 6-0, 6-1 and veteran Go Soeda defeated Martin Cuevas, Pablo's younger brother, 6-1, 6-3 before a tighter doubles match.
French duo Gael Monfils and Benoit Paire, both in the top 25, led their country to a 2-1 Group A victory over Chile, while Argentina beat Poland by the same score.
But it was a fight for South Americans with Polish number one Hubert Hurkacz that defeated world number 14 Diego Schwartzman in three sets.
Guido Pella won the other singles before Maximo González and Andrés Molteni joined to defeat Hurkacz and the two-time Grand Slam winner Lukasz Kubot in the decisive doubles.
About $ 15 million in prizes are at stake in the tournament, with up to 750 singles and 250 double ATP ranking points in play.
Under the innovative rules of the tournament, training on the court is allowed and the team areas are at the corners of the court, instead of being outside the referee.