Novak Djokovic inspired Serbia to victory in the inaugural ATP Cup team event in Sydney after defeating his long-term Spanish rival Rafael Nadal in singles on Sunday before playing a pivotal role in the deciding doubles match.
With the final locked at 1-1, Djokovic partnered veteran Victor Troicki to beat Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez 6-3 6-4, triggering celebrations that would not be out of place at a Belgrade football match.
The 16-times Grand Slam champion proved to be a calming influence throughout, especially after the Serbian pair fell behind early in the match.
He used his powerful serve and fleet-footed returns to haul his country back into the first set and create a momentum shift Serbia rode all the way to a victory completed in the early hours of Monday morning.
“We are filled with joy,” Djokovic said. “It was probably one of the best doubles we’ve played.”
For Spain, it was a lost opportunity to prove it has the world’s best men’s tennis team, having recently won the revamped Davis Cup and boasting two top 10 players in its ATP Cup side.
Nadal, a capable doubles player who won the doubles Olympic gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, was substituted out of the Spanish combination in a surprise last-minute move he said was a team decision.
The world number one cited a gruelling tournament schedule and lack of energy as part of the reason.