Day Five of the ATP Cup saw Germany, Greece and the U.S. eliminated, with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal due to return to action on Day Six.
Team United States ended their ATP Cup campaign with a demoralising third consecutive defeat, while Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are getting ready to play their last matches of the group stage.
The U.S. lost 3-0 to Italy on Day Five of the competition, a result that looked likely from the moment world number 82 Stefano Travaglia defeated Taylor Fritz 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-1).
Fabio Fognini then recorded a win over John Isner in straight sets, a 6-4 7-6 (7-5) result meaning the victory was secure for Italy even before they came out on top in the doubles.
Simone Bolelli and Fognini won the doubles against Austin Krajicek and Rajeev Ram, the match tie-break finishing 10-3 in favour of the Italians.
That awful showing at the ATP Cup followed the country’s group-stage exit at the Davis Cup Finals in November.
The poor results in the men’s game for the U.S. sit in stark contrast to the impressive displays by the top female players, with Serena Williams and Coco Gauff going strong at the ASB Classic and a host of other young names like Sofia Kenin and Amanda Anisimova giving American fans plenty of reason for optimism.
Nadal, Djokovic and Thiem set for action
Elsewhere at the ATP Cup, Nadal is poised for his toughest challenge of the round-robin section of the tournament as he prepares to take on Yoshihito Nishioka as part of Spain’s tie against Japan.
Nadal started his campaign with a battling win against Nikoloz Basilashvili where he acknowledged he had made mistakes, but followed it up with a much more straightforward victory over Pablo Cuevas, who he beat 6-2 6-1.
But Nishioka has also got the better of Basilashvili and Cuevas in an impressive week, stepping up nicely to Japan’s number one role in the absence of injured star Kei Nishikori.
Speaking to reporters in quotes carried by Express Sport, Rafael Nadal knew he was in for a difficult challenge.
“It’s going to be a tough one. He [Nishioka] had two great victories and with very comfortable results.
“So it’s going to be a big challenge and I hope to be ready to play at the level that I need to be successful.
“It was a positive victory [against Cuevas]. I played a very solid match, my serve worked better than the first day. I think I was returning very well from the baseline.
“I think I played some very good rallies, changing direction better with my forehand down the line.”
The two men have only met once before back in 2017 in Acapulco, where Nadal came out on top.
Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, will be confident ahead of his meeting with Chile’s Cristian Garin.
The Australian Open and Wimbledon champion edged a passionate encounter with Kevin Anderson in the win over South Africa, which was Serbia’s first match.
And Serbia are now already assured of going through to the next stage after Djokovic produced a superb performance to beat Gael Monfils 6-3 6-2 and then partnered Viktor Troicki to a win in the decisive doubles as his country got the better of France.
One storyline to watch against Garin will be Djokovic’s shoulder, which he received treatment on during that victory over Monfils.
Austria’s leading player Dominic Thiem is set to play Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz.
Thiem bounced back from his opening loss to Borna Coric with a win over Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman and will now look to follow that up to give his country a chance of progression.
ATP Cup all over for Zverev and Tsitsipas
A loss to Denis Shapovalov meant Alexander Zverev ended his tournament having failed to win any of his three matches.
Germany are now eliminated and a frustrated Zverev has serious work to do on his serve before the Australian Open.
Stefanos Tsitsipas went 1-2 from his three singles matches after a loss to Nick Kyrgios in Greece’s final game of the tournament as they like the U.S. ended the event without recording a victory.
Tsitsipas will be disappointed with his week after coming to Australia with some good form behind him. He attracted unwanted attention for losing his cool after dropping the first set as he swiped his racket in frustration and inadvertently injured his father, who was sitting courtside.
Daniil Medvedev ended Casper Ruud’s winning streak this week as part of Russia’s 3-0 win over Norway.
Six group winners and the best two runners-up progress to the Final 8 period of the competition in Sydney.
Australia, Great Britain, Serbia and Russia are the four teams already secure in the knockout stage, with the other spots to be decided after the action on Day Six at the ATP Cup.