ATP Cup 2021: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal lead field, but how does it work and when's the draw?
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem will be competing in the 2021 ATP Cup in Melbourne along with 14 of the top 15 ranked ATP players. Djokovic's Serbia are the defending champions after beating Nadal's Spain in last year's final, while the tournament size has been reduced this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We look at the format, rules, schedule and who's playing.
The 2021 ATP Cup will be played from February 1-5 in Melbourne and is set to be attended by fans in the stands.
There will be 12 countries (reduced from 24 last year) competing for the trophy, with each country putting forward four players (two singles and a doubles pair) for their team. Qualification for the tournament is based on each country’s top-ranked singles player while singles rankings determine the two players selected by each country.
Australia earn a wild card place as hosts but Great Britain and the USA are among the countries to miss out on a place due to the reduced format.
The tournament will feature 14 of the top 15 players in the ATP rankings, including Djokovic, Nadal, Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Roger Federer is the only player in the top 15 not to feature as he recovers from injury while Nick Kyrgios is not playing for Australia as he has slipped down the rankings following nearly a year out. World No 20 Karen Khachanov and No 21 Felix Auger-Aliassime also miss out.
What's the format?
The draw will take place on January 20, when teams will be divided into four groups.
The teams will then face off against the other teams in their groups with ties consisting of two singles matches and one doubles match. Whoever wins two of the three matches wins the tie.
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The winners from each group will advance to the quarter-finals, along with the two best second place teams.
The semi-finals will be held on February 4 and the final on February 5, with the Australian Open due to start in Melbourne on February 8.
What’s different about the ATP Cup?
There are no different rules, but the team format creates a lively atmosphere, with players cheering each other on from the sidelines and on-court coaching allowed.
Last year there were digital devices where the teams were sitting which allowed them to look at real-time statistics, such as where each player was serving, and they could then feed the information back to the player on court.
L'esultanza di Nole Djokovic e della squadra serba dopo la vittoria dell'ATP Cup. Getty Images
Image credit: Getty Images
Players seemed to love the format with Great Britain’s Jamie Murray calling it “totally unique” and Greece’s Tsitsipas also a big fan.
“I cannot picture anything better than this right now," said Tsitsipas. "There hasn't been an event which draws so much attention like the ATP Cup. For me, it's an extra honour to be sharing the court with and giving the opportunity to my fellow tennis players from the same country and giving me the opportunity to witness this and play in a big stage.”
Doubles feature no-ad scoring and a match tie-break (first to 10 points) instead of a third set.
What happened last year?
Australia made the headlines early in the tournament with Kyrgios impressing in singles and then teaming up with Alex de Minaur in doubles to help eliminate Great Britain in the quarter-finals.
But the Aussies couldn’t top Spain in the semis as Nadal battled back from a set down to beat De Minaur and seal a spot in the final. Serbia saw off Russia in the other semi-final and Djokovic then stepped up in the final as he beat Nadal and partnered Viktor Troicki to a decisive win in the doubles.
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Who will win this year?
Serbia and Spain will be among the favourites again thanks to the presence of Djokovic and Nadal, but there are some other strong teams. Canada have Milos Raonic and Denis Shapavalov in their line-up while Russia have world No 4 Medvedev and world No 8 Andrey Rublev. Greece will have their work cut out as world No 5 Tsitsipas is joined by his brother Petros, ranked 960 in the world, world No 458 Michail Pervolarakis, and world No 736 Markos Kalovelonis.
What’s been said?
ATP Cup managing director Ross Hutchins: “Playing as a team, for one’s country, is a rare privilege in tennis which brings the best out of our players. This was highlighted by the incredible matches and camaraderie on display at last year’s inaugural ATP Cup. We would like to thank our partners, Tennis Australia, for their dedication and commitment to staging this year’s tournament, which promises to deliver a strong start to the new 2021 season. We cannot wait for tennis fans around the world to again share in the excitement and energy of this special event.”