Red-Hot Serbia & Canada Face Off In ATP Cup Final Eight
Team Serbia and Team Canada both advanced out of group play in Brisbane with inspired performances in singles and doubles. The two powerhouse nations now meet in Sydney for the Final Eight of the ATP Cup, with a semi-final spot up for grabs at Ken Rosewall Arena.
Canada went 2-1 in Group F action, falling to Australia and defeating Greece and Germany. Serbia enjoyed a less complicated run to the Final Eight, finishing undefeated in Group A and scoring victories over South Africa, France and Chile.
“Having that journey through various places in Australia feels like a World Cup to us a little bit, which I’ve never felt,” said top-ranked Serbian Novak Djokovic. “It’s quite exciting. And now we are a family. We have been together almost 10 days and keep on going, so hopefully the success will follow as well.
“I enjoy the fact that we will actually go to a different city together, travel, practise there [and] play in a different environment. Sydney’s got a big Serbian community. Hopefully the support can be as good as it was [in Brisbane], even better.”
The No. 1 singles match will feature Djokovic taking on Denis Shapovalov. The pair faced off four times last year and all four meetings went the Serbian’s way, including last November’s Rolex Paris Masters final. Djokovic has been dominant in his first event of the new year, moving through his first three singles matches without dropping a set.
But Shapovalov has also come out hot to start the season. He went 2-1 in round-robin singles play in Brisbane, picking up a pair of Top 10 wins against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev. The Canadian has thrived in the boisterous atmosphere of this event, whether it’s feeding off energy from his teammates or providing support from the sidelines, and believes it’s brought out his best tennis.
“I love the team aspect, the team vibe and just getting to bond with other players. It’s so much easier when you have a group of guys like this,” Shapovalov said. “It's not a feeling we get often, that we support each other and we're there on the bench cheering each other on… Tournaments like this are so much fun and I think for the fans it's so much more fun as well, because it gets so loud and they really get more into it. I think it's great for everyone.”
Serbia and Canada’s tie opens with Dusan Lajovic and Felix Auger-Aliassime battling in the No. 2 singles match. Auger-Aliassime will look to improve his form after recording a 1-2 singles record in Brisbane, with his lone win coming against a player outside the Top 400 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. Lajovic went 2-1 in Group A and showed his fighting spirit in rallying from a set down last Friday to beat South African Lloyd Harris.
Should they split their singles matches, both countries will likely turn to doubles combinations that prevailed in winner-takes-all clashes in Brisbane. Djokovic/Viktor Troicki defeated last year’s Wimbledon finalists Nicolas Mahut/Edouard Roger-Vasselin (France), and Auger-Aliassime/Shapovalov ousted reigning Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz/Andreas Mies (Germany).
Team Serbia captain Nenad Zimonjic knows his squad will need to deliver their best tennis against Canada, but is confident they can meet the challenge. He’s pleased with what they've produced so far and believes it’s a preview of what to expect from them throughout the season.
"I'm happy with how the level both from Dusan and Novak went. Beginning of the year, first matches, the pressure playing for the team and for your country, it's completely different. That adds a lot to this competition,” Zimonjic said. “That's why I think that after the ATP Cup, all of them they will play on a much higher level in upcoming tournaments. Hopefully they bring the best form as the matches are going through."