Fired-up Djokovic makes perfect start but Thiem slumps in ATP Cup | Daily News

Fired-up Djokovic makes perfect start but Thiem slumps in ATP Cup

Serbia's Novak Djokovic gestures as he leaves after winning his group A men's singles tennis match
Serbia's Novak Djokovic gestures as he leaves after winning his group A men's singles tennis match

Melbourne, Tuesday: Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic got his season off to a perfect start with a battling win over hot-shot Denis Shapovalov in the ATP Cup Tuesday, but world number three Dominic Thiem crashed to defeat.

The Serbian world number one, who will be chasing a ninth Australian Open crown when the first Grand Slam of the year begins on Monday, was pushed hard before coming through 7-5, 7-5 against the Canadian on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic showed no signs of being hindered by a nasty blister on his racquet hand that troubled him at an Adelaide exhibition last week and returned 30 minutes later alongside Filip Frajinovic to play the decisive doubles rubber.

The pair beat Shapovalov and Milos Raonic 7-5, 7-6 (7/4) as defending champions Serbia took the tie against Canada 2-1 in Group A.

“It was a great opening of the season. Playing Shapo is always a great challenge on hardcourts, he is such a dynamic, explosive player,” said Djokovic, who was fired up by playing in front of a smattering of noisy Serbian fans.

“I thought we both played on a pretty high level, so I’m really pleased with the way I started the season.

“This is a great competition,” added Djokovic, who won all eight matches he contested en route to the trophy last year.

“We need more competitions where we represent a team, represent our country.”

Serbia beat Rafael Nadal’s Spain in the final of the inaugural and hugely popular tournament last year in Sydney -- launched as a rival to the Davis Cup.

It has been slimmed down from 24 teams to 12 this year due to the coronavirus with all matches at Melbourne Park over five days with US$7.5 million at stake, rather than the multi-city format employed in 2020.

Spain face a tough opening tie later Tuesday against hosts Australia, with Nadal up against fast-improving Alex de Minaur. On a cool day, big-serving Raonic got Canada off to a blistering start, crushing Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-4 in just 79 minutes to give his team a 1-0 lead, with the former world number three, now ranked 15, dropping just eight points on serve while sending down 11 aces.

It was left to Djokovic to level the tie before clinching the doubles rubber. AFP