Spain are heavy favourites to make it two wins from two matches at the 2020 ATP Cup when they take on Uruguay in Perth on Monday.
Spain vs Uruguay ATP Cup tennis is live from Perth at 5:30pm local time/ 9:30am GMT.
The formidable Spaniards are the only side with two top-ten singles players in their squad in this tournament, including the No. 1 player in the world, Rafael Nadal, and they showed their class in their opening match, romping to a 3-0 victory over Georgia.
Roberto Bautista-Agut was ruthless in dispatching Aleksandre Metreveli 6-0 6-0 in the first rubber, before Rafael Nadal sealed the tie with a 6-3 7-5 victory over Georgian No. 1, Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Uruguay, on the other hand, were comprehensively beaten by Japan in their Group B opener, with brothers, Martin Cuevas and Pablo Cuevas winning just five games between them in respective straight sets defeats to Go Soeda and Yoshihito Nishioka.
Will the Uruguayans be more competitive when they square off against the mighty Spaniards on Monday?
SPAIN: 1. Rafael Nadal 2. Roberto Bautista Agut 3. Pablo Carreno Busta 4. Albert Ramos-Vinolas 5. Feliciano Lopez. Captain: Francisco Roig.
URUGUAY: 1. Pablo Cuevas 2. Martin Cuevas 3. Ariel Behar 4. Franco Roncadelli 5. Juan Martin Fumeaux Captain: Felipe Maccio
Rubber 1: Roberto Bautista-Agut (SPA) vs Franco Roncadelli (URU), live from Perth from 5:30pm local time/ 9:30am GMT
Roberto Bautista-Agut will aim to set Spain on their way to another victory when he takes on Uruguayan teenager, Franco Roncadelli in the opening rubber on Monday.
The Spanish No.2 was in devastating form in his first match on Saturday, blowing away Georgia’s Aleksandre Metreveli 6-0 6-0. In truth, the Spaniard was not expected to encounter any problems against the 679th-ranked Metreveli, and he made light work of the Georgian, breezing to victory in just 72 minutes.
The world No. 9 lost just five points on serve, while he saved the only break point he faced in the opening game of the second set. It was the perfect start to the season for Bautista-Agut, who is looking to build on the successes he had in a career-best 2019.
The 31-year-old won just one title last season, in the opening week of the year in Doha, but he was a consistent performer all year round, scoring a couple of significant milestones along the way. He made his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon, while he also broke into the top-ten for the first time in his career.
He endured a major low point when his father passed away during Spain’s Davis Cup campaign, but he showed great fortitude in returning to the squad, and helping his country get over the line in Madrid. He is once again on national duty this week, and will target yet another victory for Spain on Monday when he opens this ATP Cup tie against Uruguay’s Franco Roncadelli.
With Martin Cuevas missing through injury, 19-year-old Roncadelli has been thrown into the line of fire for his tour-level debut against a rampant Bautista-Agut. The youngster does not have an ATP ranking, and has spent most of his fledgling senior career competing on the ITF circuit. Even at that level, he is very far from being accomplished, and failed to qualify for a handful of M15 tournaments last year.
Unsurprisingly, Monday’s match will be the first meeting between Bautista-Agut and Roncadelli, and given the extreme gulf in class between the two players, and the form Bautista-Agut exhibited in his opening match, this should be another comfortable outing for the Spaniard.
Rubber 2: Rafael Nadal (SPA) vs Pablo Cuevas (URU), live from Perth from 7:00pm local time/ 11:00am GMT
World No. 1, Rafael Nadal continues his ATP Cup campaign on Monday when he takes on Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas.
While there were many periods of brilliance from Nadal in his opening match against Nikoloz Basilashvili, it wasn’t the cleanest performance from the great Spaniard, who had to overcome a late wobble to get over the line.
The world No. 1 was broken in the opening game of the match, but he hit back instantly, and scored another break late in the first set to take the opener. The 19-time major winner powered to a 5-2 double break lead in the second set, but he had trouble closing out the match, as an aggressive Basilashvili got both breaks back to even the match at 5-5. Nadal got his acts together just in time to complete a 6-3 7-5 victory.
“It has been positive victory, of course, for me and for the team — 3-0, a good start to the competition,” said Nadal. “I had the match under control, 5-2 against a good player like Nikoloz. It has been a positive start. Obviously, he played some good games. I made a couple of mistakes, then the match became more difficult. That is it.”
The 33-year-old is looking to inspire Spain to a second team title in just under six weeks, having propelled his country to Davis Cup glory on home soil in November. It was the perfect ending to another fantastic year, during which he claimed Grand Slam titles in Paris and New York, won Masters 1000 crowns in Rome and Montreal, and regained the world No. 1 ranking.
With Bautista-Agut a heavy favourite to beat Martin Cuevas in the opening rubber of this tie, Nadal could once again have the chance to seal victory for Spain when he faces Pablo Cuevas in the second rubber.
Cuevas had a very disappointing outing in his first match in Australia, losing 6-0 6-1 to Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.
Despite serving at a healthy 72%, Cuevas won just 9 of 26 points on his first serve, while he was restricted to just two of 10 points on his second serve. The Uruguayan is a lot better than that, and he will be seeking an improved performance when he faces Nadal on Monday.
The 34-year-old possesses six tour-level titles, and has been as high as No. 19 on the ATP rankings. Cuevas plays his best tennis on clay, and that was again where he produced his best results in 2019, reaching the final in Estoril, and semi-finals in Rio and Cordoba. He also made the third round at Roland Garros, and won a couple of Challenger titles in Tunis and Aix-en-Provence. He faded in the second half of the season, winning just four tour-level matches after the French Open, but he still did enough to earn a year-end ranking of No. 45- his fifth top-50 finish in six years.
Cuevas can take encouragement from the fact that he has beaten Nadal before, back in Rio in 2016. Nadal has won four of their five meetings, including both of their previous encounters on hard courts. They last met at the 2017 Paris Masters, where Nadal dug out a three-set win.
Cuevas has given Nadal problems in the past, and, if he somehow rolls back the years and conjures up some of his best form, this could get interesting, especially with the way Nadal stuttered over the line against Basilashvili, but that might be just wishful thinking!
The Uruguayan doesn’t appear to be in the sort of form to unduly trouble Nadal. Expect the French and US Open champion to improve and secure another fairly routine win for Spain.
Rubber 3: Pablo Carreno Busta/ Rafael Nadal (SPA) vs Ariel Behar/ Pablo Cuevas (URU), to follow after suitable rest
Spain have an abundance of options to choose from. They could repeat the combination from their last match, when Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez teamed up, while Rafael Nadal remains a viable option. The world No. 1 singles player put in some excellent doubles shifts during his country’s Davis Cup triumph in November.
Uruguay went with Ariel Behar and Pablo Cuevas in their opening match against Japan, and could repeat that pairing against Spain. Going by doubles rankings, that is their best combination, with Behar at No. 76 in the world and Cuevas, 124th.