The final two semi-final spots are on the line on Thursday at ATP Cup on Ken Rosewall Arena and Qudos Bank Arena. A Top-10 clash between Daniil Medvedev and Matteo Berrettini headlines the winner-takes-all Russia v Italy tie, with both also looking to make an impact on the doubles court. Meanwhile any of the four teams can still qualify from Group C…
Here are the five things that matter most ahead of Day 6 at the ATP Cup.
‘Beauty’ Of The Group Stage Format
The standings are tighter-than-tight in Group C going into the final round of matches. Any of the four teams can still qualify for the semi-finals in what is set to be a dramatic day on Qudos Bank Arena.
Team Great Britain captain Liam Broady thinks the format, in which head-to-head match results between two teams take precedence over matches and sets won, is perfect for creating final-day drama. “I think the beauty of the groups is the way they’re scored,” said Broady before Great Britain’s final match with the USA, “There is everything to play for on the last day.”
Matches, sets, and even games won can nonetheless have an impact when it comes to the final standings. Felix Auger-Aliassime, whose Canada team needs to beat Germany to give themselves a chance, acknowledged that every match was still crucial. “It was a shame that we went down 3-0 against the US,” said Auger-Aliassime. “We would be in a better position if we’d got one point.”
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Team GB Looks To Evo
Dan Evans has been in scintillating form this week in Sydney, yet Great Britain’s No. 2 singles player is solely focused on how his team qualifies for the semi-finals in Group C.
“I played well, but it’s not about me right now,” said Evans following the 2-1 loss to Team Canada. “We didn’t get it done as a team. We have to dust ourselves down and get going again. We can still go through. That’s the important thing right now.”
The World No. 25 backed up his opening 6-1, 6-2 singles win over Team Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over Canada’s Denis Shapovalov on Tuesday. Britain was beaten 6-4, 6-1 in the deciding doubles, however, meaning it needs a victory against Team USA to have a chance of going through.
Evans and the American tasked with stopping him, World No. 24 John Isner, have an ATP Head2Head series record of 1-1, while the No. 1 singles match is also intriguingly poised – Indian Wells titlist Cameron Norrie and World No. 23 Taylor Fritz share an ATP Head2Head record of 4-4. With several strong doubles pairing options also available for both teams, Evans and Isner will be key in acquiring early momentum on Qudos Bank Arena.
Zverev Hopes Struff Can ‘Make My Job Easy’ Again
World No. 3 Alexander Zverev will look to the performance of his countryman Jan-Lennard Struff to set the tone for Germany against Team Canada.
Prior to Tuesday, Struff held a 0-4 ATP Head2Head record against his American opponent John Isner, but set Team Germany on its way to victory with a 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-5 win. Zverev later acknowledged the impact of winning the first point of the tie. “I think we needed that win. We needed to get on the board,” said Zverev. “It made my job easy, as well. If you’re up 1-0, it’s obviously much nicer to play.”
“For me personally it was very important”, added Struff. “But more important was the win for Germany.” He faces World No. 14 Denis Shapovalov, who he leads 5-2 in ATP Head2Head meetings, in the No. 2 singles match.
Zverev is then aiming to finish Group C with a 100 per cent singles record when he takes on World No. 11 Auger-Aliassime. The German holds a 4-1 ATP Head2Head lead over the young Team Canada captain. Both teams could qualify for the semi-finals with a win.
Hosts Seek Final Flourish
Team Australia’s 3-0 defeat to Russia on Tuesday may have ended their chances of qualifying from Group B, but the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd is not one to be taken lightly.
As No. 2 singles player James Duckworth told ATPTour.com this week, a night session match on Ken Rosewall Arena is motivation enough. “Demon [Alex de Minaur] and I have grown up here in Sydney, so it will be cool to have friends and family out to support,” Duckworth said. “Playing for the green and gold is always a special occasion.”
Duckworth recently broke into the Top 50 for the first time in his career and will be looking to sign off his debut ATP Cup campaign with a strong showing in his first ever tour-level meeting with World No. 58 Arthur Rinderknech. France’s Ugo Humbert, who sensationally beat Medvedev in his opening singles match in Sydney, will hope to improve on his 1-0 ATP Head2Head lead against De Minaur.
Doubles To The Fore For Medvedev, Berrettini
Adjusting from singles to doubles court is never easy, but Medvedev is confident in his abilities.
The World No. 2 singles star played just five doubles matches in 2021 but says he can already feel improvement after partnering Roman Safiullin in wins over France and Australia. “I don’t play a lot, so of course it’s not easy for me because it’s different tactics, different shots you need to make,” said Medvedev after the Australian win. “I’m learning every day and these two matches showed some great strengths I can have in doubles.”
On Thursday he will partner Safiullin again for defending champion Team Russia, in its crunch Group B match with Italy.
The Italian doubles pairing will also be one to watch. Berrettini admitted he had only first practiced doubles with Jannik Sinner the day before they played together against France on Tuesday, but never thought it would be a problem. “I think it takes time to play the best way possible, but we are good tennis players, so we don’t need a lot of time,” Berrettini said. “Today I think we showed that.”
Russia will hope for more heroics in the singles from their ‘new secret weapon’ Safiullin against World No. 10 Sinner. Medvedev and Berrettini (2-0 in ATP Head2Head) will then play for the first time since the 2021 ATP Cup final, when the Russian ran out a 6-4, 6-2 winner to seal the trophy for his team.
SCHEDULE – THURSDAY, 6 JANUARY 2022
KEN ROSEWALL ARENA start 10:00 am
Group B – Russia v Italy, Day Session
R. Safiullin (RUS) vs J. Sinner (ITA)
D. Medvedev (RUS) vs M. Berrettini (ITA)
Subject to change – D. Medvedev (RUS) / R. Safiullin (RUS) vs M. Berrettini (ITA) / J. Sinner (ITA)
Group B – France v Australia, Night Session
A. Rinderknech (FRA) vs [WC] J. Duckworth (AUS)
Not Before 7:00 pm
U. Humbert (FRA) vs [WC] A. de Minaur (AUS)
Subject to change – F. Martin (FRA) / E. Roger-Vasselin (FRA) vs [WC] J. Peers (AUS) / L. Saville (AUS)
QUDOS BANK ARENA start 10:00 am
Group C – Great Britain v United States, Day Session
D. Evans (GBR) vs J. Isner (USA)
C. Norrie (GBR) vs T. Fritz (USA)
Subject to change – J. Murray (GBR) / J. Salisbury (GBR) vs T. Fritz (USA) / J. Isner (USA)
Group C – Germany v Canada, Night Session
J. Struff (GER) vs D. Shapovalov (CAN)
Not Before 7:00 pm
A. Zverev (GER) vs F. Auger-Aliassime (CAN)
Subject to change – K. Krawietz (GER) / T. Puetz (GER) vs F. Auger-Aliassime (CAN) / D. Shapovalov (CAN)