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Australia Ready For Spain Test

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2020

Australia Ready For Spain Test

Hewitt looks ahead to semi-final tie

After a thrilling quarter-final victory against Great Britain in front of passionate fans in Sydney on Thursday, Australia will battle Spain for a place in the inaugural ATP Cup final on Saturday.

The challenge of replicating performances after a big win can often be difficult for players, but Australia boasts a secret weapon: the Ken Rosewall Arena crowd. Lleyton Hewitt is no stranger to playing with the support and expectation of the nation on his shoulders and the team captain is well aware that crowd support could play a crucial role for his team on Saturday night.

“Obviously it’s going to be a big crowd… We have to use that as much as possible to our advantage,” said Hewitt on Friday. “But we’ve got to reset and start again. The boys obviously can come out and use that energy that they got up from yesterday, but we’re going to focus on a totally different team.”

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In his new role as team captain, Hewitt has managed to match his playing style with fearless decision making. In Australia’s 2-1 victory against Great Britain, the 38-year-old replaced his unbeaten doubles team, John Peers and Chris Guccione, for untested singles stars Alex de Minaur and Nick Kyrgios. The bold move paid off for Hewitt, as De Minaur and Kyrgios saved four match points to defeat Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury 18-16 in a Match Tie-break.

De Minaur (2-1) and Kyrgios (3-0) have provided Hewitt with a solid foundation throughout the ATP Cup and the former World No. 1 shared his thoughts on what makes the highest-ranked Australian stars such a powerful combination.

“I think Alex brings out the best in Nick on the practice court,” said Hewitt. “Just Alex’s intensity, the way he goes about it. Nick can’t switch off in a practice set or practice with Alex [and] that’s fantastic. Both of them push each other to get better, as well.

“It’s fantastic to see. Even though Alex has passed Nick in the Rankings, Nick couldn’t be prouder of Alex. He’s like a little brother to him out there, firing him up and wanting him to have success.”

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With Team Spain in town, the atmosphere inside Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre looks set to reach new heights. Francisco Roig’s team includes World No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 10 Roberto Bautista Agut, the highest-ranked No. 2 singles player in the competition.

“It’s going to be a lot of excitement… To have Rafa in Australia and playing these events before the Australian Open is pretty special, especially here in Sydney,” said Hewitt.

Nadal enters the contest with a 5-1 record in ATP Cup matches, but Hewitt is excited to see his No. 1 player test himself against the best player in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

“[Rafa is] the No. 1 player in the world at the moment. You’re the underdog going into any match against Rafa, and we all know the intensity and quality he’s going to bring,” said Hewitt.

“He brings it day in and day out. It’s going to be a good test, though, for Alex to step up to the mark against that kind of player. Alex is playing some of the best tennis of his career right now, as well.”

Nadal leads De Minaur 2-0 in their ATP Head2Head series, which includes a straight-sets victory at the Australian Open last year. But the 20-year-old has established himself on the ATP Tour since that meeting, adding two more ATP Tour titles to his collection and reaching his second straight Next Gen ATP Finals championship match.

“[De Minaur is] going to be a big challenge too,” said Nadal. “He’s a great player. Young with a lot of energy.”

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Kyrgios will be keen to earn his ‘little brother’ the opportunity to focus his energy on winning the tie against Nadal. The 24-year-old faces Bautista Agut in the No. 2 singles match, a player who has dropped only 14 games across his four ATP Cup matches.

“[Bautista Agut] is very important. Obviously, Nick is going to have to go out there and focus on the job he’s got at hand,” said Hewitt.

“A lot of the time it can be on Nick’s racquet, though, as well. If he goes out there, plays well, executes and is in the right frame of mind, then I’m going to back him against a lot of No. 2’s.”

If the tie runs to a decisive doubles match, Hewitt will once again have a decision to make. Will he stick with his selected team of Peers and Guccione or bring De Minaur and Kyrgios into the fold as he did on Thursday?

Spain will once again rely on Pablo Carreno Busta and Nadal, the two men who clinched Spain’s place in the semi-finals early on Saturday morning with a Match Tie-break victory against Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen.

Bautista Agut, Nadal and Carreno Busta/Nadal. Hewitt and the crowd inside Ken Rosewall Arena know the test Team Australia is about to face. The question is, do they have the answers?

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Bopanna/Koolhof Capture Team Debut Title In Doha

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2020

Bopanna/Koolhof Capture Team Debut Title In Doha

Third seeds clinch trophy in Match Tie-break

Rohan Bopanna and Wesley Koolhof lifted the first ATP Tour trophy of the decade at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open on Friday, beating Luke Bambridge and Santiago Gonzalez 3-6, 6-2, 10-6.

In their first event as a pairing, Bopanna and Koolhof won five straight points from 4/4 in the Match Tie-break before taking the title on their third championship point. Earlier in the day, the third seeds defeated second seeds Henri Kontinen and Franko Skugor 7-5, 6-2 to reach the championship match after a partial washout on Thursday.

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“It is nice when you get that success immediately,” said Bopanna. “I am really happy that I got this opportunity to come to Doha to play for the very first time. I’ve always played in India. When Wes was available, especially after such a successful 2019, it was a nice opportunity for me to play with him… It is good to start off the year with a title.”

This victory improves Bopanna and Koolhof’s impressive individual records at the start of ATP Tour seasons. This is third time in four years that both men have claimed titles in the opening week (also 2017, ’19).

“In my off-season, I must be doing something pretty well,” said Bopanna. “I don’t know what it is, but if anybody wants their first title, come to India and train with Bopanna in the off-season. That’s the secret.”

“Last year, I won in Brisbane and three years ago I won in the second week in Sydney,” said Koolhof. “I am always starting off the season well, so I think it is time for holidays again.”

Bambridge and Gonzalez had triumphed in two Match Tie-breaks to reach the championship match, including their 2-6, 6-2, 10-4 semi-final win against Frederik Nielsen and Tim Puetz. The British-Mexican partnership trailed Nielsen and Puetz 6-2, 0-2 when play resumed on Friday morning.

Bopanna and Koolhof receive 250 FedEx ATP Doubles Ranking points and split $76,870 in prize money. Bambridge and Gonzalez gain 150 points and share $39,400.

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Wawrinka Completes Doha Semi-Final Field

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2020

Wawrinka Completes Doha Semi-Final Field

Rublev also through in straight sets

Following a partial washout at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open on Thursday, Stan Wawrinka made a successful return to the court on Friday to reach his second semi-final in Doha.

The top seed defeated Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-4 to improve to 2-1 in quarter-finals at the 2019 ATP 250 Tournament of the Year. Wawrinka’s best result in Doha came in 2008, when the Swiss fell in the championship match against Andy Murray in three sets.

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The former World No. 3 dropped just two points behind his first serve (27/29) and saved both break points he faced to advance after 83 minutes. Wawrinka is chasing his first ATP Tour title since lifting the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open trophy in 2017. The 34-year-old finished as runner-up in Rotterdam (l. to Monfils) and Antwerp (l. to Murray) last year.

Wawrinka will return to the court later in the day to face qualifier Corentin Moutet for a spot in the championship match. The #NextGenATP Frenchman outlasted Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in two hours and 12 minutes to reach his first ATP Tour semi-final.

Andrey Rublev also booked his place in the semi-finals, beating Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4, 6-3. The 2018 runner-up, who owns a 7-2 record at the ATP 250 event, will face Miomir Kecmanovic for a place in the final. Kecmanovic was the only player to advance on Thursday, cruising past Marton Fucsovics 6-2, 6-0 in 55 minutes.

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Spain Sets Aussie SF, After Help From Video Review

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2020

Spain Sets Aussie SF, After Help From Video Review

Spain to face Australia on Saturday night

Rafael Nadal rallied from his singles defeat to help push Spain past Belgium and into the ATP Cup semi-finals early Saturday morning in Sydney, and video review played a crucial role in the Spaniards’ victory as innovations continue to have an impact at the inaugural tournament.

Nadal and Pablo Carreno Busta came back to beat Belgium’s Sander Gille/Joran Vliegen 6-7(7), 7-5, 10-7 to clinch the tie victory 2-1. Spain will now prepare to face the host country Australia on Saturday night for a place in the inaugural ATP Cup title match.

Coming from Perth we didn’t have a lot of time to adapt and today the conditions were very heavy with humidity. Playing against David in the singles was a very difficult thing. But we are super happy to be in the semi-finals,” Nadal said. “We’re excited to play a very tough one against Australia. We will give our best like we have done all through our careers.”

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The Spaniards erased two break points at 3-4 in the second set, and they earned the first break of the night and grabbed momentum later in the second set on a video review.

With Gille serving at 5-5, 0/40, Vliegen smashed a floater away at net. But the review showed that Vliegen had reached over the net, giving the point to the Spaniards.

Video Review: Spain Breaks Serve After Successful Challenge

It was a welcome change for the Spaniards, who had asked for a video review on a similar call in the first set but the call was not overturned. But after their successful review in the second set, they then held and controlled the Match Tie-break, winning when Vliegen double faulted.

Belgium’s David Goffin forced the deciding doubles with a 6-4, 7-6(3) upset against the World No. 1 Nadal, only the second time the Spaniard has lost in singles while representing Spain (29-2; excluding Olympics).

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Millman On Epic QF Tie: 'It's Hard To Recreate Those Moments'

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2020

Millman On Epic QF Tie: ‘It’s Hard To Recreate Those Moments’

Millman relives the day Australia outlasted Great Britain in an epic tie.

John Millman and Team Australia got in tournament transportation at 7:30am on Thursday morning. Little did they know that in the next several hours, they’d create a moment at the ATP Cup that nobody will soon forget.

Australia defeated Great Britain 2-1, but their tie was far more dramatic than the final scoreline. Great Britain’s Daniel Evans beat Alex de Minaur in a final-set tie-break in the second singles match of the day to force a deciding doubles. And after not playing doubles throughout the group stages, De Minaur and Nick Kyrgios stepped into the drama-strewn situation, saving four match points against doubles stars Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury, sending their country to the semi-finals.

There courtside through it all inside Ken Rosewall Arena was Millman. After many good shots in each of the three matches, the television camera panned to Millman and his countrymen in the Australian Team Zone, leaping out of their seats and, in some cases, out of the Team Zone to encourage those competing.

“I think that’s probably a bit more raw emotion. I think the beautiful thing about team competition is the fact that you do have a bench and obviously the crowd was creating a great atmosphere, but you do use the bench,” Millman said. “Those boys showed early that they wanted our energy, they wanted our support. So we played every point with them.”

Millman did not play a match on Thursday, but he was part of the equation. Captain Lleyton Hewitt asked him to move down a step to sit on the same bench as him.

“He told me to get down and play every point with the boys and with him,” Millman said. “To be able to be courtside next to Lleyton is something pretty special… to learn from him is something pretty special and something that I don’t take for granted.”

Kyrgios won the No. 2 singles match against Cameron Norrie in straightforward fashion, taking just 72 minutes. But the battle of De Minaur and Evans would be the longest of the tournament. Evans emerged victorious after three hours and 24 minutes.

“I thought the quality was incredible. Dan Evans played some smart and well-executed tennis and you know what you’re going to expect from Alex: he shrinks the court and moves so well and he was striking the ball beautifully,” Millman said. “It was one of those matches that I think you could say either guy could have won that match and you wouldn’t have had a problem with it.”

There was one point at which De Minaur needed help relacing his sneaker, so as Millman held De Minaur’s foot in place, Kyrgios fixed the laces. Anything the team needed, the Aussies helped one another. And while Millman wasn’t playing doubles, he had to help pump his countrymen up in the Team Room before the match following De Minaur’s loss.

“When he got back to the locker room obviously Alex was a little disappointed,” Millman said. “But I think Lleyton might have talked to Alex and Alex was ready to play some doubles.”

Australia lost the momentum after Evans’ thrilling victory. But Hewitt made a change to his line-up, replacing Chris Guccione and John Peers with De Minaur and Kyrgios.

“I think the one thing they wanted out of Alex was just to bring that energy. We have got guys that can play, and if you’re going to play we just want that energy and Alex straightaway, he hits that return winner and gives us a big come on so we knew he was present,” Millman said. “What makes him so special is his ability to bounce back and go again and that engine that he’s got is massive.

“With Nick, we kind of tossed around the idea that he might have played and he was ready to play. He wanted to play, he wanted the opportunity. I think with Nick moreso, you take probably a different approach. He’s a bit more laid back in his demeanour and you want to keep things light with him and keep them fun, so I find that really interesting.”

What followed was an epic to remember for years to come. Kyrgios and De Minaur hit back-to-back backhand return winners up the line to save one of the four match points they faced and then earn the one that they converted, when Salisbury missed a return long.

“Riding the emotions and those types of matches, it’s really hard to recreate those moments. They just happen. You don’t expect that to be the case when you wake up in the morning. You don’t know what to expect,” Millman said. “But until you actually live it, it was pretty special and they’re the ones you remember.”

What was tough for Millman was having to watch from the Team Zone. As exciting as it was, the Aussie could only watch and assist as needed. He couldn’t put a racquet in his hands and compete himself.

“I think it’s a hell of a lot easier playing, actually. When you don’t have any control over the issue, it’s tough, it’s tense and your palms are sweaty,” Millman said. “I’m just so happy that the boys managed to get through and they really deserved it. The emotions that they showed at the end were really special.”

As Millman said, it was a “massively long day”. After 6pm, following several hours in which he poured all of his emotions into helping his countrymen, Millman headed out to the practice court to strike some balls himself.

“That hit was really tough, because mentally and physically you’re just drained. It’s actually really exhausting. That was really difficult,” Millman said before reflecting on the day. “It was a really special atmosphere that the crowd created, that the team created. In a new competition like that, I think it’s really important to have some really big matches like that because they’re the ones that people will talk about for the duration of the year and then when we come back and revisit it in 2021, they’ll be the memories that people have.”

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Bautista Agut Puts Spain One Win From SF

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2020

Bautista Agut Puts Spain One Win From SF

Nadal to try to clinch against Goffin

Roberto Bautista Agut has still not dropped a set at the ATP Cup, and Spain is one win away from facing the host country Australia in the ATP Cup semi-finals.

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Bautista Agut, the highest-ranked No. 2 singles player in the tournament (No. 10), beat Belgium’s Kimmer Coppejans, who replaced Steve Darcis, 6-1, 6-4 on Friday night in Sydney. Bautista Agut broke four times and won 67 per cent (10/15) of his second-serve return points.

Rafael Nadal will face David Goffin for a chance to clinch the ATP Cup Final Eight matchup. Nadal leads his ATP Head2Head series 4-1 against Goffin.

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Serbia Looks To Use 'Home' Advantage Against Russia

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2020

Serbia Looks To Use ‘Home’ Advantage Against Russia

Djokovic battles Medvedev; Lajovic takes on Khachanov in Saturday semi-final

The members of Team Serbia and Team Russia are thousands of kilometres from their homes as they compete in Sydney at the ATP Cup. But after the Serbian squad experienced full-throated fan support throughout their quarter-final victory over Canada, they said it felt like they were playing at home. They’ll look to use the vocal crowd in Ken Rosewall Arena to their advantage when both teams meet on Saturday for their semi-final clash.

On paper, there’s little separating the two powerhouse lineups. Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov are undefeated in singles for Russia, while Novak Djokovic matched that effort for Serbia and Dusan Lajovic is 3-1 in singles play. Each country also sports a 3-1 record in doubles. With both teams in top form, the Serbians hope that fan support can provide the slight edge that pushes them into the title match.

“When you have most of the stadium backing you up after every point, it makes a significant difference in terms of how you feel on the court,” Djokovic said. “Of course, you’re focussing on your game and what needs to be done tactically, but at the same time, you’re playing in a stadium. If the majority of the stadium is backing you up, it’s easier. You find that strength. You find that motivation.

“When you’re down, they lift you up. You feel more alert, more responsible because so many people are backing you up and supporting you that you have to deliver your best game. You want to play in this kind of atmosphere all the time, but it’s not always possible. That’s why I try to cherish these kind of moments and take them with me anywhere I go.”

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A blockbuster battle in the No. 1 singles match will see Djokovic take on Medvedev. Djokovic leads their head-to-head 3-2, including a four-set victory in last year’s Australian Open. But Medvedev has prevailed in their past two matches and picked up where he left off last season, which saw him finish the year with a Tour-leading 59 match wins.

“I like to play Novak. The matches with him are something special,” Medvedev said. “He’s one of the three best players in history, so of course it was great to beat him a few times, but every match is a new one. Every match is so tough with him and that’s how you progress, so I like to play against these top players.”

The No. 2 singles match features Khachanov squaring off with Lajovic. The Serbian holds a 2-0 record over Khachanov, but this will be their first meeting on hard courts. Lajovic found a new gear during his victory on Friday against #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime and said the vocal Sydney fans have fueled him to deliver his best tennis.

“The energy that they bring is unique. If you look at the overall season, there is not one place where you have as many Serbians as here because we don’t have any tournaments in Serbia,” Lajovic said. “When you have them in stadiums, it’s usually the minority of the fans, and here they are the majority. I think that this feeling cannot get old. The more they pump you up, the more energy you feel. Just thinking about it, I can get the goosebumps now. I think it really helps us a lot here in the ATP Cup.”

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Should the tie come down to doubles, Serbia will likely elect Djokovic and Viktor Troicki. The pair won their winner-takes-all match in Brisbane against last year’s Wimbledon finalists Nicolas Mahut/Edouard Roger-Vasselin (France). Khachanov/Medvedev went 1-1 in Group F play and Teymuraz Gabashvili/Konstantin Kravchuk have won both of their matches at this event without dropping a set, but Russia has yet to play a live doubles match.

Team Serbia captain Nenad Zimonjic said he hasn’t decided on a doubles pairing yet. But if Djokovic and Lajovic bring their current form, he’s optimistic that they can get the job done in singles.

“The Russian team is extremely tough. I would say that they have two really strong players, but also having Novak on [our] team and then Dusan in high form, I think everything is possible there,” Zimonjic said. “We’ll see how it goes after singles, but I think in both matches, we can win both of those.”

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Auckland Classic: Serena Williams & Caroline Wozniacki reach semi-finals

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2020

Serena Williams reached the Auckland Classic semi-finals with a straight-set victory over Germany’s Laura Siegemund.

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion beat 73rd-ranked Siegemund 6-4 6-3.

Williams, whose last singles title came at the Australian Open in 2017, will play either Amanda Anisimova or Eugenie Bouchard in the last four.

Caroline Wozniacki reached the semi-finals with a 6-1 6-4 victory over the 2019 champion, German fourth seed Julia Gorges.

The Dane, who will retire after the Australian Open in Melbourne, will next play unseeded American Jessica Pegula.

Wozniacki and Williams will play their doubles semi-final against Belgian pair Kirsten Flipkens and Alison van Uytvanck later on Friday.

  • Live scores, schedule and results
  • World number one Barty beaten in Brisbane
  • Djokovic puts Serbia into ATP Cup semis

In Brisbane, world number four Naomi Osaka beat Kiki Bertens to reach the semi-finals and extend her winning streak to 14 matches.

Australian Open champion Osaka defeated Bertens 6-3 3-6 6-3 and will play either Czech Karolina Pliskova or American Alison Riske.

Petra Kvitova, who lost to Osaka in the Melbourne final last year, also reached the last four in Brisbane.

The Czech seventh seed defeated Jennifer Brady 6-4 6-2 to set up a meeting with Madison Keys, who beat fellow American Danielle Collins 6-4 6-1.

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How Preparation Is Different For Djokovic & Serbia At The ATP Cup

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2020

How Preparation Is Different For Djokovic & Serbia At The ATP Cup

World No. 2 speaks about how the members of Team Serbia help one another.

Each week on the ATP Tour, players prepare for their matches with their personal coaches. But the ATP Cup is a team competition, and World No. 2 Novak Djokovic revealed how having the ability to huddle up with countrymen makes the tournament different.

“We do get together and speak in the hotel before our matches every day, and each one of us shares his thoughts on maybe the opponent that he’s going to have or for the other guys’ match or doubles or whatever it is,” said Djokovic. “It’s quite, I think, open in terms of everyone really having an opportunity to share what they feel like, maybe some advice or things that they have noticed, their observations.”

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One of the positives that Djokovic noted about the ATP Cup is that each country’s Team Zone is right on the court, so he could interact with his fellow Serbians throughout the match. While Nenad Zimonjic is the Serbian captain, every player could share their thoughts with whoever is playing. On Friday, Viktor Troicki was doing just that for Djokovic.

“They are literally behind you,” Djokovic said. “So you get to interact and talk and ask them about things that they see that you can’t really see, what you’re doing right or wrong or what the opponent and the other player on the court is doing.”

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The group element could present the potential for too much information. So while Djokovic said that he and his teammates happily swap ideas about an opponent, they don’t go overboard.

“Everyone is slightly different, so you don’t want to interfere with someone’s routine,” Djokovic said. “Someone likes to talk more, someone likes to talk less, someone doesn’t like to talk at all. So we all respect each other’s trajectories in a way in preparation, and so far it’s been working well.”

Most players remaining in Sydney have their personal coaches with them. So while former World No. 1 Marat Safin says that he does not overstep, he is happy to give his opinion to those coaches to get on the same page and potentially deliver those messages to the players.

“We match with the coaches. We are talking about same things,” Safin said. “But they might say [it] with the different words. So it can get closer to the center of attention in some moments. Mainly it’s the same things. It might be fresh words”.

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ATP Cup: Novak Djokovic puts Serbia through to semi-finals in Sydney

  • Posted: Jan 10, 2020

Novak Djokovic fought back to beat Canada’s Denis Shapovalov and ensure Serbia reached the ATP Cup semi-finals.

World number two Djokovic rallied to beat Shapovalov 4-6 6-1 7-6 (7-4) and give Serbia an unassailable 2-0 lead in the tie after Dusan Lajovic beat Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4 6-2.

Serbian pair Viktor Troicki and Nikola Cacic then beat Peter Polansky and Adil Shamasdin 6-3 6-2 in the doubles to secure a clean sweep in Sydney.

They will play Russia in the last four.

Australian Open champion Djokovic has won all of his singles rubbers at the ATP Cup but was made to work hard by Shapovalov.

  • Live scores, schedule and results
  • Williams through to Auckland semi-finals

Shapovalov, who has beaten top-10 players Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev at the tournament, broke Djokovic in the penultimate game of the first set before serving it out.

However, Djokovic blasted through the second, converting all three of his break opportunities to force a decider.

Djokovic served for the match at 5-4 in the third set and had a 30-0 lead when a spectator was taken ill in the stands and play was halted.

The Serb gave the fan a bottle of cold water as she was escorted out of the stadium but he lost the next four points when play resumed and Shapovalov broke back.

Shapovalov saved four match points, including two off the Djokovic serve, but the Canadian sent a forehand long as Djokovic secured victory in two hours and 41 minutes.

“This was the closest match I have ever played against Denis. It was so close, it could have gone a different way easily,” Djokovic said.

“He was playing some terrific tennis and I want to give a huge round of applause and credit to him.”

Spain will play Belgium later on Friday, with the winner playing hosts Australia in the second semi-final.

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