Super Sunday showdown!
Spain's Rafael Nadal charged up to take on Serbia's Novak Djokovic in ATP Cup final
Sydney: Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will face each other in the final of the inaugural ATP Cup after winning epic three-set matches on Saturday to steer Spain and Serbia into the decider. World No. 1 Nadal ground down pumped-up Australian Alex de Minaur to guide the Davis Cup champions through their semi-final, while Djokovic battled past Russia's Daniil Medvedev.
Under the format of the innovative team event in Sydney, the top-ranked singles players from each country play each other, ensuring the two legends clash for a 55th time since their first showdown in 2006.
Djoko has edge over Rafa
World No. 2 Djokovic leads the head-to-heads 28-26, including beating his arch-rival in the Australian Open final last year. Nadal outlasted De Minaur 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 after unflappable teammate Roberto Bautista Agut tamed Nick Kyrgios 6-1, 6-4. Djokovic had an equally tough time against impressive fifth-ranked Medvedev, coming through a top-draw contest 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 on the back of Dusan Lajovic beating Karen Khachanov 7-5, 7-6 (7/1). "Alex was playing at a very high level and for me my energy was a little bit lower than usual. But it has been a very emotional evening and a pleasure playing here," said Nadal. "We know it's going to be a super tough final [against Serbia]," he added. "Novak likes a lot to play here, he's had a lot of great results. So let's see. We have a good team too."
De Minaur had a furious start, breaking Nadal in the opening game of the match and then keeping the pressure on, restricting the Spaniard's trademark forehand to take the first set in 46 minutes. De Minaur was deflated and the fight went out of him as the 19-time Grand Slam showed him who was boss, racing through the deciding set.
Sixteen-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic, who is targeting an eighth Australian Open title this month, had looked on track for a comfortable win against Medvedev after sailing through the opening set and breaking in the first game of the second.
Medvedev roars back
But the dogged Russian, who won their last two encounters, roared back. He broke in the next game and then again for 3-1, with Djokovic smashing his racquet as Medvedev took the set to level the match. A third set of long, high-quality rallies went with serve until Djokovic got the crucial edge in the fifth game, converting a volley to go 3-2 in front and Medvedev had no answer.
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