The dream final is set at the inaugural ATP Cup in Sydney where Spain will battle Serbia in the final Sunday night.
Serbia held off a deep Russian team behind Novak Djokovic thrilling win over Daniil Medvedev 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 to give Serbia and insurmountable 2-0 lead.
Dusan Lajovic pulled off the upset in the opener beating Karen Khachanov 7-5, 7-6(1). That set the stage for Djokovic and Medvedev who had beaten the Serb in their last two meetings.
Djokovic, though, was too strong early for Medvedev, but the Russian found his form in the second, locking down on defense, extending the rallies and early on, forcing 10-minute plus games and breaking Djokovic three times.
In the third, Djokovic got the break at 2-all then hung off, swatting away break chances to serve it out and put Serbia in the final.
“Exciting, exhausting, joyful, dreadful all at once,” Djokovic said. “At one point we both refused to miss from baseline, so it was a lot of rallies and it was very exhausting. Very physical battle, but also mental battle.
“He showed why he’s one of the best players in the world, why he’s Top 5. This kind of consistency and this kind of solid game from back of the court, big serves got him to where he is. He deserves to be there.
“Definitely one of the most exciting matches I have played against him or any other top player last few years.”
Medvedev suffered his first lost of the event.
“I think I’m not that far, but to stay not that far and maybe get even closer, I have to continue to work hard,” Medvedev said. “I have to continue to be consistent, to have this level of play that I had in the last two sets over months, maybe years.
“If not, that’s the strength of these guys that they are always there, always in the semifinals, finals of Slams, and that’s the most important.”
Serbia now gets Spain who edged Australia 3-0. Roberto Bautista Agut got things rolling cruising past Nick Kyrgios 6-1, 6-4.
It was then up to Alex De Minaur to keep Australia alive, but he had to beat Rafael Nadal. Early on, it looked for the youngster who broke quickly and took the opener. In the second, served 5-all, 30-all but De Minaur couldn’t make any ground. Nadal held, then broke to level and ran away with the third for a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 win.
“It was tough at the beginning of the match as Alex was playing at a very high level and my energy was a little lower than usual. Yesterday was a very long day in heavy conditions,” Nadal said.
“I just tried to change a little bit the dynamic, tried to change a little bit the energy of the match in that moment and tried to make the opponent feel something different that it’s not going the same way that it had been going for the last 30 minutes.”
De Minaur had come up big for the home nation all week, but fell just short Saturday.
“He changed his game plan a bit more,” De Minaur said. “He started to step up in the court a bit more and not let me dictate as much. Therefore, I felt like I had to push a bit more, and that’s when the mistakes came.
“For me to play the match, I’ve got to play a very aggressive game. I’m red-lining for a lot of that match, so a couple missed balls here and there, and he ended up just being too good.”
In the final, Bautista Agut will take on Lajovic, then it’s the blockbuster between Nadal and Djokovic.
The two legends will meet for a 55th time with
“It’s going to be a super tough final against Serbia,” Nadal said. “Novak likes to play here and Serbia has a great team and is playing very well. But Roberto played an amazing match this afternoon and we have a good team, so we are ready for it.
“Physically, I guess he is a little ahead of me. Djokovic plays on a surface that is perhaps his favourite,” added Nadal. “I know I have a complicated game, but if I play at my best level I hope to have my chances. Then, we have other matches in the tie that can help us achieve something important.”
Djokovic leads Rafa 28-26 (19-7 for Novak on hard courts). And on hard courts, Djokovic is 8-0 in matches and 17-0 in sets against Nadal since their 2013 US Open final.
They split two meetings last year with Djokovic winning the Australian Open final and Nadal getting revenge on clay in the Rome title match.
If it goes to a doubles, Nadal will team with Pablo Carreno Busta against Djokovic and Viktor Troicki. Nadal has already recently led his team to the Laver Cup and Davis Cup titles.
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