The stage is set. Across five days and 15 ties, 12 countries will battle to become ATP Cup champion. Can Serbia defend its crown? Will Spain go one step further than last year and lift the trophy? Or will one of the remaining 10 nations break through and take the title?
Here are the five things that matter most ahead of Day 1 at the ATP Cup.
Revenge Or Repeat?
Serbia and Canada will clash in the first tie on Rod Laver Arena. The two nations met in last year’s knockout stage, when Serbia claimed a 3-0 victory to reach the semi-finals. The standout match of that tie was Novak Djokovic and Denis Shapovalov’s No. 1 singles clash, won by Djokovic in a final-set tie-break. The World No. 1 was pushed to the limit for two hours and 40 minutes in Sydney, but he held his nerve to deny the Canadian a memorable victory. The pair will meet for the second straight year in No. 1 singles action.
Andrey Rublev is one of three Top 20 singles stars making his tournament debut on Day 1. The World No. 8 is the highest-ranked No. 2 singles player in the competition and he will attempt to carry his form from 2020 into this team event. Rublev tied Djokovic for the most tour-level wins (41) and led the ATP Tour with five ATP Tour titles last year. Matteo Berrettini will attempt to begin his ATP Cup campaign with another win against World No. 3 Dominic Thiem. The Italian is tied at 2-2 in his ATP Head2Head series against the US Open champion with 2019 victories at the Rolex Shanghai Masters and Nitto ATP Finals. Milos Raonic, who rose from No. 32 to No. 14 in the FedEx ATP Rankings last year, will face Dusan Lajovic in the opening match of Serbia and Canada’s tie.
Spain and Australia will headline the evening session on Rod Laver Arena in a repeat of last year’s semi-final. On that occasion, Spain claimed a 3-0 victory to reach the championship match. The one-sided score did not fully reflect last year’s battle in Sydney, where two of the three matches required a final set. Alex de Minaur claimed the first set of his encounter with Rafael Nadal and served to take the Spaniard to a second-set tie-break, but Nadal raised his level to win seven of the next eight games and confirm his nation’s place in the championship match.
At the inaugural ATP Cup, 14 ties were decided by doubles matches. Watch out for more deciding doubles clashes this year. Australia’s doubles stars John Peers and Luke Saville have both achieved past success at Melbourne Park. Peers lifted the Australian Open trophy with Henri Kontinen in 2017 and Saville partnered Max Purcell to the championship match last year (l. to Ram/Salisbury). Spain and Argentina can both count on players who qualified for last year’s Nitto ATP Finals. Marcel Granollers (Spain) and Horacio Zeballos (Argentina) claimed three titles as a team en route to the season finale in 2020.
Thiem, Medvedev Return
For the first time since their 2020 Nitto ATP Finals championship match, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev will step onto the same court on Day 1 at the ATP Cup. In the day session on John Cain Arena, Thiem will lead Austria in Group C action against Italy. Medvedev will make his first appearance of the season in the evening session, when Russia meets Argentina in another 2020 knockout stage rematch.
Thiem and Medvedev will both be aiming to start the year strong and use the team competition as a springboard for 2021 success. The two rivals both defeated Top 2 stars Djokovic and Nadal en route to the Nitto ATP Finals championship match in 2020. This year, they will attempt to overtake them in the FedEx ATP Rankings.