With 12 of the Top 13 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings competing in the ATP Cup, this year’s edition of the innovative team tournament will be packed with quality and high-profile matches.
Last year’s tournament featured shock results, decisive doubles clashes and a meeting in the championship match between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Ahead of the second edition of the event, ATPTour.com looks at five blockbuster matches to watch during this year’s group stage.
Rafael Nadal v Stefanos Tsitsipas (Group B)
Nadal owns a combined 9-1 ATP Head2Head record against the other No. 1 singles players in Group B, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alex de Minaur, but he will be wary of the threat both men pose. When the Spaniard takes to the court against Greece, he will meet Tsitsipas for the eighth time in their budding rivalry (Nadal leads 6-1). Nadal may own a commanding advantage against the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion, but, in their recent matches, the margins have been fine.
Three of the pair’s four most recent clashes have gone to a deciding set. Tsitsipas’ lone victory against Nadal came when the odds were stacked against him. Playing on clay in front of Nadal’s home fans in the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open semi-finals, the Greek overcame five-time champion Nadal in three sets to reach the championship match.
As a player who wears his national pride on his sleeve, Tsitsipas will step onto the court with added motivation when he meets Nadal in Melbourne. When they played last November, Nadal battled past Tsitsipas 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 for a place in the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals. Now, the Greek will try to get his revenge.
Novak Djokovic v Denis Shapovalov (Group A)
This Group A showdown will be a repeat of a classic from last year’s ATP Cup. One year on from their epic quarter-final battle, Djokovic will face Canadian No. 1 Denis Shapovalov for the sixth time in their ATP Head2Head rivalry (Djokovic leads 5-0).
The Serbian entered his match against Shapovalov at last year’s event with confidence, having dropped just one set in his opening four matches against the left-hander. On the other side of the net, Shapovalov was seeking his third Top 10 win of the tournament after group-stage wins against Tsitsipas and Zverev. After failing to serve out the match at 5-4 in the third set, Djokovic needed a final-set tie-break to finally overcome the Canadian in two hours and 40 minutes.
That meeting proved to be the springboard for Shapovalov’s most successful season. Despite the loss, Shapovalov went on to crack the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time later in the year. This ATP Head2Head match-up features a classic showdown of Shapovalov’s dynamic offence against Djokovic’s unrelenting defence. The question is, now that the Canadian is flying as high as ever, will he be able to dent Djokovic’s perfect record against him?
Dominic Thiem v Matteo Berrettini (Group C)
It’s safe to say there will be some massive hitting when Dominic Thiem and Matteo Berrettini meet in Group C action. The pair did not meet on the ATP Tour in 2020, but perhaps they deserved a short break from each other after playing in three of their final four ATP Tour events of 2019.
More than a year after Thiem won their opening ATP Head2Head (now tied 2-2) match at Roland Garros in 2018, Thiem and Berrettini contested a trilogy of hard-court matches at the 2019 Rolex Shanghai Masters, the Erste Bank Open in Vienna and the Nitto ATP Finals. Berrettini won two of those encounters in straight sets and pushed Thiem deep into a third set at the Austrian’s home event.
Thiem will be keen to improve on his 1-2 record at the ATP Cup and he has form on his side. The World No. 3 finished his 2020 campaign with wins against Djokovic and Nadal, as he advanced to his second straight Nitto ATP Finals championship match (l. to Medvedev). Berrettini is the highest-ranked player to have already competed on the ATP Tour this year. The World No. 10 opened his 2021 campaign with a run to the Antalya Open quarter-finals. He will be eager to make a splash in Melbourne after not reaching a semi-final last year.
Daniil Medvedev v Diego Schwartzman (Group D)
Daniil Medvedev produced a high level at last year’s ATP Cup, as he led Russia to the semi-finals with an unbeaten 4-0 singles record before falling against Djokovic and Serbia. But Diego Schwartzman tested the Russian along the way.
Across two hours and 20 minutes, Schwartzman created 10 break points and claimed his first set against the Russian in three ATP Head2Head meetings. Medvedev was the more clinical player in crucial moments, as he saved eight of those break points and broke serve on three occasions to book Russia’s spot in the semi-finals.
Medvedev takes a 5-0 record — which includes four straight-sets wins — into their sixth clash. Schwartzman, however, climbed to a career-high World No. 8 last October. The Argentine will try to show how much he has improved when he tries to avenge last year’s ATP Cup defeat against Medvedev.
Novak Djokovic v Alexander Zverev (Group A)
When Serbia meets Germany in Group A, fans will be treated to the seventh edition of one of the highest-profile ATP Head2Head rivalries of the past few years. Djokovic owns four wins from six matches against Alexander Zverev, but both of the German’s victories have come on the big stage.
In their first meeting, Zverev stunned Djokovic in straight sets to capture his maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown at the 2017 Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. Djokovic responded with back-to-back victories in 2018, but Zverev ended that season with the biggest win of his career. After losing to Djokovic in the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals round-robin stage, Zverev landed 10 aces and broke Djokovic’s serve on four occasions in the championship match to capture the trophy in London.
Djokovic has won both of the pair’s encounters since that final clash and enters this year’s ATP Cup with an 8-0 tournament record across singles and doubles. Whether Zverev can spring a third surprise on the World No. 1 remains to be seen, but the 6’6” German has already proven he has the tools required to make it happen.
*Match schedule is subject to change in line with ATP rules and regulations