After the first day of the ATP Cup produced thrilling battles, upset wins and decisive doubles clashes, many tennis fans will be wondering what Day 2 of the ATP Cup has in store? While predictions should be left to the ATP Cup Bracket Challenge, we do know that fans can look forward to a showdown between two of the sport’s brightest young talents — Alexander Zverev and Denis Shapovalov — the latest chapter in the ATP Head2Head rivalry of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alex de Minaur and the 2021 debuts of Kei Nishikori and Gael Monfils.
Here are the five things that matter most ahead of Day 2 at the ATP Cup.
Fresh or Tested?
Four of the eight teams in action — Russia, Italy, Australia, and Canada — played on Day 1. The remaining four nations — Japan, France, Greece, and Germany — will be making their 2021 debuts. Will the fresh teams have an edge or will they still be shaking off that off-season rust? An argument can be made either way. The teams playing their second ties will have a better feel for the court speed and conditions, but how will they adjust to playing matches in back-to-back days so early in the season?
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The Australia versus Greece tie could inspire the most spirited crowds we’ve heard since the 2020 Australian Open. The Aussie Fanatics support their local boys more vocally than perhaps any other fans in the world. But Melbourne has a huge Greek population as well. Over the years, Greek and Greek Cypriot players, like Marcos Baghdatis, have attracted massive support at tournaments Down Under. The fans have had many months to rest their vocal chords, so it’ll be interesting to see and hear which team receives more support.
Kei Nishikori faces a tough task in his return to the ATP Tour. The 31-year-old will face reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion and World No. 4 Daniil Medvedev in the Japan versus Russia tie. Nishikori, who reached a career-high No. 4 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in 2015, played just four events in 2020 after returning from elbow surgery. The Japanese star owns a 2-2 ATP Head2Head record against the Russian star, which includes a final victory in Brisbane in 2019. Nishikori will need to find his best level quickly, following Medvedev’s 7-5, 6-3 win against World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman on Tuesday.
More 2021 Debuts
French and German players will also make their 2021 debuts as France plays Italy and Germany faces Canada. Gael Monfils will meet Matteo Berrettini in a repeat of their epic 2019 US Open quarter-final. The Frenchman, who lost that meeting in a final-set tie-break, will aim to gain his revenge with another strong start to an ATP Tour season. Last year, the French No. 1 won 16 of his opening 19 matches and two ATP Tour crowns. Berrettini has already shown he is in fine form in Australia. The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals qualifier defeated World No. 3 Dominic Thiem in straight sets and earned a decisive doubles victory for Italy (w/Fognini) on Tuesday.
And what will the new year bring for Alexander Zverev? His first test against World No. 12 Denis Shapovalov will be a tough one. The 13-time ATP Tour titlist owns a 3-2 ATP Head2Head record against the 21-year-old, but one of those two losses came at this event last year. The German ended 2020 in fine form and he will be eager to carry that momentum into 2021 with a first ATP Cup win (0-3).
At the ATP Cup, doubles takes centre stage. On Day 1, two of the four ties were decided by doubles results. In decisive doubles encounters, team captains often have difficult decisions to make. Do they stick with their established doubles team or bring their singles stars into the mix? At last year’s event, Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt’s decision to field singles stars Alex de Minaur and Nick Kyrgios in the quarter-finals against Great Britain paid off, when the duo saved four match points to beat doubles stars Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury and reach the semi-finals.
Two-time Roland Garros champions Andreas Mies and Kevin Krawietz will represent Germany and France’s roster features doubles veterans Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. But not every team can rely on established doubles partnerships. At that point, team captains will have some crucial decisions to make.