ATP Cup: Rafael Nadal braves hot Perth
Nadal glad to overcome "heavy conditions" as he helps Spain enter quarters
Perth: World No. 1 Rafael Nadal overcame an error-strewn performance and Yoshihito Nishioka's brave challenge to lead Spain into the ATP Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday. The 19-time Grand Slam winner made 36 unforced errors before beating Japan's Nishioka 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 in two hours and seven minutes.
Unbeaten Spain—who won the revamped Davis Cup in Madrid in November—finished top of Group B with World No. 10 Roberto Bautista Agut downing Go Soeda 6-2, 6-4 to secure the tie.
Nadal has yet to drop a set but he looked sluggish at times ahead of the Australian Open, where he aims to equal Roger Federer's record tally of 20 Grand Slam titles. The long exchanges against an unwavering Nishioka seemed to take a physical toll on Nadal, who appeared weary in Spain's first day-session tie in the hot Perth conditions.
"It's the first time I played under these heavy conditions, so the feeling on court is completely different," Nadal said. "I played against an opponent who has started the season on fire."
Japan surprisingly finished second in Group B after World No. 13 Kei Nishikori and Yasutaka Uchiyama withdrew before the tournament and they are still in the mix to advance to the knockout stages in Sydney. World No. 72 Nishioka has steadily become a fan favourite after earlier beating higher ranked players Nikoloz Basilashvili and Pablo Cuevas.
Djokovic stars for Serbia ahead of Oz Open
Brisbane: Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic said on Wednesday that the ATP Cup was the ideal preparation for his bid to win an eighth Australian Open crown. Speaking after Serbia beat Chile 2-1 to remain unbeaten after the round-robin stage, Djokovic said he wasn't fazed by having to play three top players in a row to start the season. Djokovic made it three singles wins from three with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Cristian Garin, the World No. 33, to win the tie for Serbia after Dusan Lajovic earlier beat Nicolas Jarry 6-2, 7-6 (7/2).
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