World No. 2 Novak Djokovic looks to lead Serbia into the ATP Cup semi-finals when the take on rising tennis powerhouse Canada in Sydney on Friday.
Serbia vs Canada ATP Cup tennis is live from Sydney at 10.00am local time on Friday (11.00pm GMT).
Yet to drop a set at the ATP Cup, Djokovic has expectedly been instrumental in guiding Serbia into the knockout stages, but he’s had solid support from Dusan Lajovic, who has won two of his three singles matches.
Serbia start favourites with Djokovic in their ranks, but they can’t afford to underestimate Canada, especially with Denis Shapovalov in the form he’s in to kick off 2020.
Road to the quarter-finals
Serbia ?? def. South Africa ?? 3-0
Lajovic def. Harris 3-6 7-6(4) 6-3
Djokovic def. Anderson 7-6(5) 7-6(6)
Cacic/Troicki def. Klaasen/Roelofse 6-3 6-2
Serbia ?? def. France ?? 2-1
Paire def. Lajovic 6-2 6-7(6) 6-4
Djokovic def. Monfils 6-3 6-2
Djokovic/Troicki def. Mahut/Roger-Vasselin 6-3 6-7(5) 10-3
Serbia ?? def. Chile ?? 2-1
Lajovic def. Jarry 6-2 7-6(3)
Djokovic def. Garin 6-3 6-3
Jarry/Tabilo def. Cacic/Troicki 6-3 7-6(2)
Canada ?? def. Greece ?? 3-0
Auger-Aliassime def. Pervolarakis 6-1 6-3
Shapovalov def. Tsitsipas 7-6(6) 7-6(4)
Auger-Aliassime/Shapovalov def. Pervolarakis/P. Tsitsipas 6-2 6-3
Australia ?? def. Canada ?? 3-0
Millman def. Auger-Aliassime 6-4 6-2
De Minaur def. Shapovalov 6-7(6) 6-4 6-2
Peers/Guccione def. Auger-Aliassime/Shamasdin 3-6 7-6(3) 10-8
Canada ?? def. Germany ?? 2-1
Struff def. Auger-Aliassime 6-1 6-4
Shapovalov def. Zverev 6-2 6-2
Shapovalov/Auger-Aliassime def. Krawietz/Mies 6-3 7-6(4)
SERBIA ??: 1. Novak Djokovic 2. Dusan Lajovic 3. Nikola Milojevic 4. Nikola Cacic 5. Viktor Troicki. Captain: Nenad Zimonjic.
CANADA ??: 1. Denis Shapovalov 2. Felix Auger-Aliassime 3. Steven Diez 4. Adil Shamasdin 5. Peter Polansky. Captain: Adriano Fuorivia.
Rubber 1: Dusan Lajovic (??) vs Felix Auger-Aliassime (??), live from Sydney at 10.00am local time (11.00pm GMT)
Lajovic and Auger-Aliassime clash for the first time in what is shaping as a pivotal tie for both nations. If Serbia win, they can rest easy with the knowledge Djokovic is coming up next to potentially seal the tie, while if Canada prevail, they know at the very least the semi-final spot will be decided in the lottery of doubles.
After losing six of the last seven matches he played in 2019, Lajovic has started 2020 in fine fashion, winning two of his three group matches against Lloyd Harris and Nicolas Jarry, with his other match resulting in a tight three-set defeat to the enigmatic Benoit Paire.
Lajovic has showcased his fighting qualities throughout his encounters in Brisbane as he aims to push on from a career-best season in 2019, where he won his maiden ATP title on the clay of Umag and reached his first Masters 1000 final in Monte-Carlo, earning the biggest win of his career over No. 5 Dominic Thiem before going down to Fabio Fognini.
Meanwhile, Auger-Aliassime has had a somewhat rough start to 2020 after his own breakout season last year, losing two of his three matches, with his only win coming against Greek journeyman Michail Pervolarakis.
Auger-Aliassime was comprehensively beaten by John Millman of Australia and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany, but he redeemed himself in doubles, partnering Shapovalov to a crucial win over Germany that earned them second place in Group F behind Australia and ultimately one of the two quarterfinal tickets for the best runner-ups.
Backing up breakout seasons has always been difficult for youngsters, and the 19-year-old’s form at the start of 2020 suggest he might be in for a bit of a battle in the first quarter of the year.
Auger-Aliassime was one of the big stories of the 2019 season, vaulting from outside the top 100 and into the top 20, achieving a career-high ranking 13 times throughout the year before settling at No. 21, reaching ATP finals in Rio de Janeiro, Lyon and Stuttgart, while he also made the Miami Masters semi-finals.
It’s a big match for Auger-Aliassime and he’ll have to be playing close to his best to beat Lajovic, who is extremely tough to break down and is operating at a high level himself right now. The Serbian is getting a lot of balls back and striking his forehand nicely – and if he can get out to an early lead, I’m not sure whether Auger-Aliassime – with his confidence down – can peg him back.
Rubber 2: Novak Djokovic (??) vs Denis Shapovalov (??), live from Sydney around 11.30am local time (12.30am GMT)
Djokovic brings a 4-0 record into this second singles rubber against Shapovalov and will be confident of extending that to five on Friday.
It hasn’t been a spectacular start to the season for Djokovic, but he’s yet to drop a set and has improved with each match after being forced to two tiebreaks by Kevin Anderson in his ATP Cup opener, cruising past Gael Monfils and Cristian Garin without losing more than three games in a set.
After a disappointing end to 2019 in which he relinquished the No. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal and was knocked out of the ATP Finals in the group stage, Djokovic has spoken about his determination to kick off 2020 with a bang and go undefeated throughout January, which would of course culminate with the Australian Open, where he is a record seven-time winner and defending champion.
But for now, Djokovic is looking forward to competing in Sydney in front of what is sure to be another strong Serbian contingent.
“Sydney’s got a big Serbian community, hopefully the support can be as good as it was here, even better. It’s a team competition, it’s how I personally treat it, and that’s how it feels for all of us. So having that journey through various places in Australia together feels like a World Cup to us a little bit, which I’ve never felt,” Djokovic said.
“It’s quite exciting, to be honest. And now we are a family. We have been together now almost 10 days, and keep on going, so hopefully the success will follow as well.”
Shapovalov is primed for a big 2020 in my eyes and from the looks of his tennis in Brisbane, he could be making a swift push towards the top 10 in the first quarter.
The 20-year-old began the season with a straight sets dispatch of World No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas, and after a narrow loss to Alex de Minaur, Shapovalov bounced back to crush the struggling Alexander Zverev 6-2 6-2 for his second top 10 scalp in three matches.
Making his first big breakthrough in 2017 when he beat Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro to become the youngest player to reach a Masters 1000 semi-final since 1990 when he did so at home in Montreal, Shapovalov struggled in 2018 as he came to terms with life as an ATP Tour regular at such a young age.
However, Shapovalov settled during the back-half of 2019, especially after linking up with new coach Mikhail Youzhny. The 20-year-old won his first ATP title in Stockholm and went on to reach his maiden Masters 1000 final in Paris, going down to Djokovic. Shapovalov also reached semi-finals in Miami, Winston-Salem and Chengdu as he finished the year at a career-high No. 15 in the world.
But, while Shapovalov is undoubtedly on the rise, he hasn’t come close to figuring out the Djokovic puzzle yet. They squared off four times last season and Shapovalov only managed one set – and that came at the Australian Open after a big concentration lapse from Djokovic in the third. The Serbian bounced back to win the fourth 6-0 and has since posted set scoreline of 6-1 6-3 6-3 6-3 6-3 6-4 in dominant wins in Rome, Shanghai and Paris. Shapovalov might get a bit closer this time, but Djokovic’s defence remains the best in the world and the Canadian is still a bit too erratic to stay the course.
Rubber 3: Doubles, live from Sydney around 3.00pm local time (4.00am GMT)
Teams to be confirmed
Serbian captain Nenad Zimonjic has been alternating between Djokovic, Viktor Troicki and Nikola Cacic in the doubles, but if the tie is even at 1-1, you can expect Djokovic to come into the team.
Likewise, Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov – who have played countless times together coming up through the ranks – will likely be given the nod by Team Canada after winning their two matches together over the last week.