Tue, Jan 14, 2020 - Page 16 News List

ATP Cup shows Djokovic is king

AFP, SYDNEY

From left, Serbia’s Nikola Milojevic, Dusan Lajovic, Novak Djokovic, Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki pose with a Serbian flag and the ATP Cup at Mrs Macquaries Point in Sydney yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

The inaugural 24-nation ATP Cup team competition played in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney over 10 days in the lead-up to the Australian Open raised some talking points:

NEW INNOVATIONS

The new tournament won plenty of plaudits, with players also hailing the team spirit and competitive matches.

Innovations were trialled at the ATP Cup, including on-court coaching and team zones in the corners of the court, which were wildly popular. There were also real-time statistics, data and match vision available to the captain and players, plus a video-review system to challenge contentious decisions such as foot faults.

While it worked well, there was also high-profile criticism from Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal that playing another team event so close to the Davis Cup in November was too much.

“I think is a great competition, but at the same time I can’t change my mind that two World Cups in one month is not real. So [it] is not possible,” Nadal said on Sunday.

KING NOVAK

Djokovic underlined his credentials as king of the hardcourts and favorite to win an unprecedented eighth Australian Open title.

The Serbian superstar never looked like losing, coming through tough tests from the likes of Denis Shapovalov, Daniil Medvedev and world No. 1 Nadal in Sunday’s final to remain unbeaten.

“I mean, it is the perfect preparation,” the 16-time Grand Slam winner said. “This has been 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.”

“It has been an amazing event,” he added.

ZVEREV CRASHES

Big things have been tipped for Alexander Zverev since he burst into the top 10 in 2017, but the 22-year-old is yet to fully deliver. The young German won just one title last year and slipped down the rankings to seven from four at the start of the season.

He failed spectacularly at the ATP Cup, looking lost on court as he crashed in all three of his games.

To make matters worse, he was reportedly stung by a bluebottle while swimming at an Australian beach, although it was nothing serious.

“It’s not really that high,” the dejected Zverev said of his confidence. “Generally I’m not playing good, so there’s a lot of things that I still need to improve, but it’s the start of the season.”

Asked how he could fix what was wrong before the Australian Open, he replied: “On the practice court.”

‘WHY NOT WOMEN?’

If an early-season team event is good enough for the men, then why not women as well?

Djokovic said he supported the idea, as did former US Open runner-up Madison Keys after criticism that women had been sidelined at the WTA Brisbane International.

The event was played at the Queensland Tennis Centre, the same as the ATP Cup, but the men monopolized center court.

Maria Sharapova said that theirs felt like a “second-hand” tournament, while Sloane Stephens, who is on the WTA players’ council, complained that female players “weren’t in the conversation to even be considered” for the main court.

Tennis officials said that they were working on a “new concept” for women in the Australian summer.

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