Rafael Nadal and Pablo Carreno Busta from Spain reacted to the point win against Sander Gille and Joran Vlieg from Belgium during their ATP Cup tennis match in Sydney, Friday January 10, 2020. (AP Photo / Steve Christo)
Rafael Nadal suffered an angry defeat in the singles, but improved the doubles to keep Spain alive on ATP Cup Friday, and Novak Djokovic survived a horrific defeat before leading Serbia into a semi-final against Russia.
After Roberto Bautista Agut swept past Kimmer Coppejans 6: 1 and 6: 4 in the first individual, Nadal had the chance to take the last four places against David Goffin.
But the 19-time Grand Slam winner fought in the heat and moisture of Sydney with a 6: 4, 7: 6 (7: 3) against the eleventh-placed Belgium. It was a rare loss when he played for his country that helped him win the Davis Cup in November.
The draw ended with a decisive one-two. Nadal returned to partner Pablo Carreno Busta against Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen and won 6: 7 (7: 9), 7: 5 and 10: 7.
"It was tough because for us it was a big change from Perth to here, not much time to adjust and the conditions were tough, the humidity and playing against big players," said Nadal.
"But as a team we are super happy to be in the semi-finals."
Spain's group matches were played in the round robin phase of the first team competition in Perth, where the air was much drier.
Nadal, who hadn't dropped a set this year before meeting Goffin, had been sweating for much of his solo game and was using ice towels during the switch.
He tried to find his rhythm and revealed nine breakpoints in the first movement.
Goffin had two more breakpoints that he scored 5-3 in the second game, but Nadal clung to the match and became more offensive before the Belgian finished it for one of the greatest wins of his career.
Spain will face Australia in the last four games.
Like Nadal, Djokovic, number two in the world, was tested when he lost his first set of the tournament in a fight against Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
The Serbian superstar was deployed by the 14th offspring before winning 4: 6, 6: 1, 7: 6 (7: 4) to help his team win 3-0.
"It was so close that it could easily have taken a different route," said Djokovic.
“It was a great fight and it is very good for me to have such a match before tomorrow and such an Australian Open, for my self-confidence, for a kind of competitive game. That's exactly what you want to have against one of the best players in the world. "
His impressive teammate Dusan Lajovic, who was supported by a huge contingent of Serbian fans in the Ken Rosewall Arena, had previously defeated the number 21 Felix Auger-Aliassime 6: 4, 6: 2 before Viktor Troicki and Nikola Cacic met teamed up to win the double.
The win led to a semi-final against Russia, whose two singles – fifth in the world rankings, Daniil Medvedev, and 17th Karen Khachanov – are unbeaten this season.
Djokovic met Shapovalov four times last year and won every game with no problems.
But the 20-year-old Canadian improves and has already had two top 10 victories against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev.
He came out with blazing weapons and won the first set before the Serb rolled it with steam in the second.
The third set with high stakes went up to the ninth game when the Canadian lost the foundation due to a shot and Djokovic broke 5: 4.
He was in the match for the match and 30: 0 in the lead when a woman fell ill in the stands and the action was briefly interrupted.
It affected his concentration and Shapovalov broke off with the set and eventually went to a tiebreaker, where Djokovic, as he has so often done, rose at the time when it was most important.
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