Re­ally fo­cused

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

An omi­nous Rafael Nadal was in cruise con­trol for Spain at the ATP Cup on Mon­day but Ser­bia's No­vak Djokovic was forced to sweat through bru­tal con­di­tions for his sec­ond win in a row.

The Span­ish world No 1 swept past Uruguay's ex­pe­ri­enced Pablo Cuevas 6-2, 6-1 in just 73 min­utes in Perth to en­sure his coun­try won their sec­ond con­sec­u­tive tie at the in­au­gu­ral 24-team event and moved closer to the quar­ter­fi­nals.

He came on court af­ter team­mate and world No 10 Roberto Bautista Agut made short work of Franco Ron­cadelli 6-1, 6-2.

"A great match. I played bet­ter than the other day. It was a very pos­i­tive vic­tory against an op­po­nent for who I have a lot of re­spect," said 19-time Grand Slam win­ner Nadal. "I'm su­per happy."

Djokovic was given a test­ing work­out in his open­ing clash in Bris­bane on Satur­day by bigserv­ing South African Kevin An­der­son, who took him to two tiebreak­ers. He was back to his dom­i­nant best against France's Gael Mon­fils, but the sap­ping heat and hu­mid­ity made the 6-3, 6-2 win harder than the score sug­gested.

"It was def­i­nitely one of the most hu­mid con­di­tions that I have ever had in my ca­reer. Tonight was bru­tal," said the world No 2, who ex­tended his record over Mon­fils to 16-0, dat­ing back 15 years. "Ob­vi­ously play­ing Gael, you know you are go­ing to have a lot of ex­changes, a lot of ral­lies. He is a great fighter and a great friend of mine. Tough luck today."

Eight of the 24 na­tions will make the quar­ter­fi­nals in Sydney from the round robin - six group win­ners and two best run­ners-up.

Other win­ners on Mon­day in­cluded Ja­pan, Croa­tia, South Africa and Aus­tria.

World No 4 Do­minic Thiem bounced back from a shock loss in his open­ing match to beat tena­cious Diego Schwartz­man in two tough sets to steer Aus­tria to vic­tory over Ar­gentina in Sydney.

Ear­lier, Den­nis No­vak showed bat­tling qual­i­ties to up­set world No 25 Guido Pella af­ter los­ing the first set 6-0. It kept Aus­tria alive in Group E af­ter they lost their open­ing tie to Croa­tia.

The un­beaten Croats are sit­ting pretty, spear­headed by for­mer US Open cham­pion Marin Cilic who eased past Poland's Kacper Zuk in straight sets - his sec­ond vic­tory in a row.

One of the big­gest sur­prises has been Ja­pan, which has won both its ties - against Uruguay and Ge­or­gia - de­spite be­ing with­out in­jured stars Kei Nishikori and Ya­su­taka Uchiyama, their third best player. Yoshi­hito Nish­ioka has stepped up, beat­ing world No 26 Nikoloz Basi­lashvili in straight sets in Perth af­ter thrash­ing world No 45 Pablo Cuevas on Satur­day.

South Africa, spear­headed by An­der­son, re­main in con­tention af­ter clean-sweep­ing Chile 3-0 in Bris­bane.

For­mer world No 5 An­der­son clinched the tie by beat­ing Cris­tian Garin 6-0, 6-3 af­ter Lloyd Har­ris's com­fort­able win over Ni­co­las Jarry. Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse made it a white­wash when they bat­tled past Garin and Jarry in the dou­bles 1-6, 6-3, 10-7.

No­vak Djokovic

Rafael Nadal

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