2020 started with introduction of new event on ATP calendar for tennis enthusiasts Team event similar to Davis Cup started from Jan 3.
Inaugural ATP Cup had new format with 24 nations divided into 6 groups with top nation from each group and two best second placed teams qualifying for semifinals.There were 2 singles matches followed by doubles match.Top ranked players from each nation competes in second singles.
Serbia,Spain,Russia and hosts Australia made it to last four.Serbia beat Russia 3-0 with Djokovic winning vital 3 set thriller against fifth ranked Daniil Medvedev.In the other semifinal,world no.1 Rafael Nadal led Spain to similar 2-0 win against hosts Australia in Sydney.
Unsurprisingly both World no.1 Nadal and second ranked Djokovic featured for their respective nations in a blockbuster second singles rubber in the final.Roberto Bautista Agut continued his good form in the tournament by giving Spain 1-0 lead.However Djokovic had to dig deep as he needed to win both singles and doubles for the title.Nole beat Rafa 6-2,7-6 extending his streak over great rival Nadal on hard courts.Nadal has not won against Djokovic on hard courts since Sept.2013.Before the final,Nadal had spent over 6 hours in 2 days showing signs of physical and mental fatigue.After the singles loss, Nadal opted out of decisive doubles which Serbians won with Djokovic again proving the star teaming up with Viktor Troicki to lift the crown.
10 day team event right at the start of new year is a good experiment with matches being held in 3 different cities down under viz Brisbane,Perth and Sydney.Moreover instead of earlier seasons regular scheduling of ATP events in different cities across Australia,this team event proved financially viable.It may prove to be fruitful for many players ahead of Australian Open which starts in a weeks time.Also being team event,former players also had interaction with current players during matches.Another plus point is the ranking points which will be earned by the players.Unlike Davis Cup,ATP Cup offers 750 ranking points for undefeated singles player and 250 for doubles star.
Some tennis stars including Djokovic and Nadal had criticised the staging of ATP Cup within a short time of under two months after Davis Cup which was also held under new format in November 2019.Spain won the title back then.Scheduling of matches this year was another concern raised by some players including Rafael Nadal as he had less time to reach for the quarterfinals after finishing group fixtures for Spain.Spanish team had to travel from Perth to Sydney and had to face jet lag resulting in less recovery time for the tie against Belgium.Nadal had lost to David Goffin in straight sets in singles rubber of quarterfinal for his first loss in the tournament
ATP Cup will remain in place until 2022.Many top players have suggested the idea of merging Davis Cup and ATP Cup.It makes sense as competing in back to back team events at the end of one year and at the start of another year looks strange and tough for the players and support staff.Also for the fans its sort of boring.ITF which organises Davis Cup and ATP Chiefs will have to make a decision as soon as possible so that tennis fans will have new combined team event in 3-4 years.
by Shailesh Padhye for Sportsnasha.com