Serbia vs France ATP Cup Preview and Tips

andrew hendrie:

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic will be aiming to lead Serbia into the ATP Cup quarter-finals when they take on France in Brisbane on Monday.

Serbia vs France ATP Cup tennis is live from Brisbane at 5.30pm local time on Monday (7.30am GMT).

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Both Serbia and France enjoyed opening tie wins in the ATP Cup on Saturday – who will make it two wins from two and secure their place in the quarter-finals on Monday in Brisbane?

Group A

Previous results

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

France ?? def. Chile ?? 2-1

Paire def. Jarry 6-7(3) 6-3 6-3
Monfils def. Garin 6-3 7-5
Garin/Jarry def. Mahut/Roger Vasselin

Teams

SERBIA ??: 1. Novak Djokovic 2. Dusan Lajovic 3. Nikola Milojevic 4. Nikola Cacic 5. Viktor Troicki. Captain: Nenad Zimonjic.

FRANCE ??: 1. Gael Monfils 2. Benoit Paire 3. Gilles Simon 4. Nicolas Mahut 5. Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Captain: Gilles Simon.

Rubber 1: Dusan Lajovic (??) vs Benoit Paire (??), live from Brisbane at 5.30pm local time (7.30am GMT)

Lajovic and Paire each won their opening singles rubbers and are locked at 1-1 in their head-to-head – but they haven’t played since 2016.

Coming off a career-best season in 2019, Lajovic rallied from a set down to subdue the powerful Lloyd Harris of South Africa on Saturday night, registering a 3-6 7-6(4) 6-3 victory. Harris was serving bombs and unloading with his enormous groundstrokes from the baseline, but Lajovic was able to weather the storm and eventually frustrate his younger opponent with consistency and depth of shot, breaking twice in the deciding set to complete the victory and give Serbia the perfect start.

“I was putting pressure on his serve and I think he was feeling it and that was the key in the tie-break,” Lajovic said. “I knew that if I stayed confident in the tie-break, I’d have my chances. And after the tie-break he went down physically a little bit.”

Despite his superb season in 2019, Lajovic lost six of his last seven matches and was desperate to get off the mark in his first match of 2020.

The 29-year-old won his maiden ATP title in Umag and reached his first Masters 1000 final in Monte-Carlo, defeating Dominic Thiem before falling to Fabio Fognini. Lajovic does his best work on clay, as those results attest too, but he is more than capable of holding his own on hardcourt, as we saw against Harris. Can he claim what could be a crucial win in the opening rubber once more?

Paire, if he plays to his potential, will be very tough to beat. The enigmatic Frenchman showcased superb fighting spirit in his ATP Cup opener against Nicolas Jarry of Chile on Saturday, coming back from a set and a break down to improve his head-to-head to 3-0 over the 24-year-old.

“I feel good, I feel confident and really happy to play. So it was important for me, and I think it’s important for the French team because we enjoy to play together. We are very happy to be here and, honestly, with the team it’s not like a normal team, it’s a more fun team,” Paire said.

Paire earned a career-high 34 wins in 2019, winning two ATP titles in Marrakech and Lyon, while he also began to leave a mark at Grand Slam level, reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. A runner-up finish in Winston-Salem also helped Paire rise from No. 69 in March to a year-end ranking of No. 24, just six spots off his career-high of No. 18 (January, 2016).

Lajovic won their first encounter on the clay of Sao Paulo in 2016, but Paire prevailed later that year in five sets at the U.S. Open. Both players have improved since then, especially Lajovic, but like most occasions, this match is on Paire’s racquet. We know what we’re going to get from Lajovic – consistency and fighting spirit, but if Paire is on song with his backhand, he’ll be tough to beat.

Rubber 2: Novak Djokovic (??) vs Gael Monfils (??), live from Brisbane around 7.00pm local time (9.00am GMT)

Djokovic brings a dominant 15-0 record over Monfils into this second rubber, meaning it’s almost essential that Paire beats Lajovic if France are to have any hope of winning the tie.

The World No. 2 was involved in a terrific opening match against South Africa’s Kevin Anderson on Saturday night, emerging triumphant in two tiebreaks in front of an electric atmosphere inside Pat Rafter Arena. Djokovic was made to work extremely hard by Anderson, who was playing his first match since knee surgery, but he produced his trademark steely baseline game when he needed it most, refusing to miss on the crucial points as he dug out the 7-6(5) 7-6(6) win.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts after winning his singles match against Kevin Anderson (PA Images)

“I thought it was a fantastic opening match of the season,” Djokovic said. “I was really pleasantly surprised and I’m very grateful to all the fans coming out and being patient, staying all the way to the end of the match, especially Serbian guys that really showed the great passion.”

After relinquishing his No. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal at the end of 2019, Djokovic is determined to regain the top spot as soon as possible, and if his emotion and passion against Anderson is anything to go by, the Spaniard will have a tough time stopping him in Australia.

A record seven-time Australian Open champion, Djokovic loves playing in this part of the world and if he can continue from where he left off against Anderson, he will fancy his chances of making it 16 straight wins over his French rival on Monday.

Monfils is coming off a very underrated season in 2019, where he ended the year in the top 10 for just the second time. The 33-year-old captured one of his biggest career titles in Rotterdam, defeating Stan Wawrinka in the final, made semi-finals in Sofia, Dubai and Vienna, the fourth round at the U.S. Open and Roland Garros and the quarter-finals at the Paris Masters.

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The Frenchman was once again hindered by injuries throughout the season, but Monfils was consistent enough to finish in the top 10 and he will be hoping to stay there for as long as possible in 2020. He got off to the perfect start on Saturday, overcoming Chilean youngster Cristian Garin in straight sets, coming back from a break down in the second to prevail 6-3 7-5.

“It was great today. I think he had a good period in the second set, actually a strong period. It shook me a little bit,” Monfils said. “But I think slowly I get back in shape. I had a good pre-season and then I had to stop because I hurt a bit myself during the pre-season. And then I come back a little bit stronger. And here I was hitting it quite a lot actually and it felt great.”

As mentioned, Monfils has lost all 15 meetings with Djokovic, taking just two sets in their last five encounters – but one of those did come down under at the 2018 Australian Open. Monfils has to play more aggressive than he’d like to beat Djokovic and break through his defences, and that level simply isn’t sustainable for him if the Serbian is anywhere near his best. It’s going to take a superhuman performance from Monfils and a below-par display from Djokovic for the Frenchman to pull of the upset on Monday.

Rubber 3 – Doubles, live from Brisbane around 9.00pm local time (11.00am GMT)

Teams to be confirmed

France have the stronger doubles team on paper, but Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin couldn’t come out on top in their first match against Chile, losing to Jarry and Garin, while the Serbian pairing of Nikola Cacic and Victor Troicki won their encounter against South Africa.

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