Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal to kick off 2021 campaigns at ATP Cup

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal to kick off 2021 campaigns at ATP Cup

The Serb and the Spaniard are among a star-studded field taking part in the team event, which will be held the week before the Australian Open, and at the same venue.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will kick off their 2021 campaigns at the ATP Cup, which will be held at Melbourne Park from Monday to Friday, February 1 to 5 ahead of the?Australian Open.

The two legends led their countries to the final of the team event in its inaugural year last year, with Serbia ultimately lifting the trophy. Djokovic and Nadal met in one of the two singles matches, with the Serb prevailing, 6-2, 7-6 (4). Serbia then won the deciding doubles match to clinch the tie, 2-1.

“This has been—and I keep repeating that—one of the highlights of my career,” Djokovic said after leading his team to victory at the ATP Cup last year. “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, with the people that I have known for the biggest part of my life. So it has been an amazing event. Traveling a couple cities, having fantastic support in Brisbane, Sydney, off the charts. I have never experienced such a support in my matches ever, anywhere, and I have played the biggest stadiums in tennis.

“This was something different.”

The second edition of the ATP Cup will look a lot different to the first, obviously due to travel and scheduling complications because of COVID-19. Last year the event saw 24 teams compete over 10 days across three cities—this year it’s 12 teams and five days, and it’s all at Melbourne Park.

But it’s still a star-studded field, including 14 of the Top 15 players on the ATP rankings: No. 1 Djokovic, No. 2 Nadal, No. 3 Dominic Thiem, No. 4 Daniil Medvedev, No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 7 Alexander Zverev, No. 8 Andrey Rublev, No. 9 Diego Schwartzman, No. 10 Matteo Berrettini, No. 11 Gael Monfils, No. 12 Denis Shapovalov, No. 13 Roberto Bautista Agut, No. 14 Milos Raonic and No. 15 Pablo Carreno Busta. No. 5 Roger Federer isn't playing as he continues his recovery from a right-knee injury.

The 12 countries competing this year are Serbia, Spain, Austria, Russia, Greece, Germany, Argentina, Italy, Japan, France, Canada and host nation Australia. They will be divided into four groups of three for round-robin play, with the top finisher in each group moving through to the semis.

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And if history is anything to go by, expect the two biggest names in action to come out strong.

Djokovic has played some of the best tennis of his career Down Under—he’s won the Australian Open eight times, the most of any man in history. But he’s also won 19 of his last 20 matches at lead-up events to the Australian Open, with his only loss in the last five years coming in the semifinals of Doha in 2019 to Bautista Agut. The Serb has a 28-4 career record in Australian Open lead-up events.

And Nadal has been excellent in this part of the season, too, winning 15 of his last 20 matches in Australian Open lead-up events, and 31 of his last 41. He was the Australian Open champion in 2009, but has finished runner-up four times since—including twice to Djokovic (2012, 2019).