Novak Djokovic (Serbia) gestures to the crowd during their ATP Cup Tennis matches against Denis Shapovalov from Canada in Sydney, Friday 10 January 2020. (AP Photo / Steve Christo)
SYDNEY – Novak Djokovic had an almost full house on his side in the Ken Rosewell Arena and felt like he had to be a responsible host for his guests.
There was a delay in the third set of his ATP Cup quarter-final game against Denis Shapovalov on Friday when a spectator needed medical help from a medic and Djokovic, despite a 0:30 deficit on serve, added a bottle of water to the stadium seating and asked the crowd to pass it on.
In this game, he came back with 30-30 before Shapovalov broke through with 5-5. The Canadian secured a breakpoint in the next game, but after the match opted for a tiebreaker after 2 1/2 hours, Djokovic took control by winning the first five points and making a comeback 4: 6, 6: 1, 7: 6 ended (4).
Dusan Lajovic had previously defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime 6: 4, 6: 2. Djokovic's victory sealed the quarter-finals before the doubles and gave Serbia a place in the semi-finals against Russia. Serbia won the double 3-0.
“It was so narrow that it could have been a little different. (Shapovalov) played great tennis, ”said Djokovic. "It didn't feel like I was playing at home."
Djokovic, who has won the Australian Open seven times, played in Sydney for the first time in a decade after winning 3-0 in singles in the ATP Cup group stage in Brisbane.
"I mean, Brisbane, we had amazing support – but this has brought it to another level," said Djokovic. “The whole Serbian people came out today.
“They were sometimes a little too engaged, and Denis was rightly annoyed by the sounds, but it was really a Davis Cup-like atmosphere. I mean, the ATP Cup gives players the opportunity to experience something they haven't seen in 90% of the tournaments. "
During the game, the temperature rose to over 33 degrees Celsius. There was a hazy wind outside and the conditions in the arena were sticky.
Djokovic endured everything to extend his record against Shapovalov to 5-0. The constant chants and even a trumpet blow from the flag-waving Serbian fans would certainly have helped him, he said. The 16-time major winner reveled in the team environment, with his teammates and coaches at the side of the pitch and the echo of "Nole, Nole, Nole" that ran through the stadium.
Shapovalov complained of the noise after making a double error that resulted in the tiebreaker falling 4-0, and the referee asked the crowd to remain silent during the serve movement.
He was excited during the game, but did not complain later and said that he could take on Djokovic and the other top players better.
"With my confidence, with my game, I really feel like I can show it to everyone and I feel against everyone I have a chance to win against," he said. "Today is another step for me to show that I'm right there with these guys. To be honest, I was a few points away from the match. So, yes, I think I'm in a really good position . "
Russia's captain Marat Safin said his team would benefit from the additional day off and could win both singles games against Serbia on Saturday and end the semi-final before the doubles.
Australia expects the winner of the later Friday game between Spain and Belgium in the semifinals.
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