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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Thursday January 9, 2020


Serbia is going to the final four at the ATP Cup.

Novak Djokovic closed out a dramatic 4-6 6-1 7-6(4) victory over Canada’s Denis Shapovalov after Dusan Lajovic had taken out Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4 6-2, sending a raucous pro-Serbian crowd into delirium at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney.

Did it feel like he was playing at home today, Djokovic was asked after the victory.

“Not a little bit, fully, like I was playing at home,” he answered. “Brisbane we had amazing support but this has taken it to a different level.”

The crowd caused a bit of controversy during the match as Shapovalov took issue with the crowd and lashed out at them at one point, earning a code violation. Later, umpire Carlos Bernardes warned the crowd, telling them that if they didn’t want to watch the tennis they should just go home.


Djokovic too became frustrated late in the third set when a fan’s cell phone went off while he was serving, and he too was given a code violation when he shouted at them in frustration.

But the chaotic atmosphere only served to heighten the intensity of a brilliant match by both players.

For Shapovalov, the contest marked his first real competitive match against Djokovic in five encounters. He played assertive tennis from start to finish, and even shook off a late break in the deciding set to break the Serb and force a third-set breaker.

The 20-year-old Canadian went 2-2 at the ATP Cup but turned heads with his step-up performances against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev. His losses came in three sets to Alex de Minaur and Djokovic, but he never backed down and continued to fight in both contests.

Tennis Express

Djokovic had his hands full with the Canadian but was able to dig deep and dominate the second set after dropping a tight opening set. He then engaged in a tight, intense decider, playing patiently and systematically, and drawing upon his vast wealth of experience to power through a lopsided tiebreaker.

Djokovic opened up a 6-1 lead in the final-set tiebreaker, but even then Shapovalov kept bringing the fight—the Canadian saved three match points before finally bowing out.

“It's another step for me, showing me that I'm right there with these guys. Honestly, I was a couple points away from taking the match,” Shapovalov said, according to ATPTour.com. “I think I'm at a really good position. Hopefully I don't stop here. Hopefully I can keep going.”

In the first match Dusan Lajovic improved to 3-1 at the ATP Cup with a convincing victory over Felix Auger-Aliassime, 6-4 6-2. The 19-year-old Canadian was no match for the more experienced Lajovic, he tossed in 32 unforced errors and really struggled with his decision making.

He seemed to be playing into Lajovic’s hands for much of the night as the Serb repeatedly launched passing shots past the Canadian after he had rushed the net behind less than perfect approach shots.


Afterwards Lajovic said that he was aware of Auger-Aliassime’s struggles at the ATP Cup and it helped him believe that he would come through whenever things got tight.

The 29-year-old broke things open with a break in the fifth game of the second set and he never looked back, winning the final four games to hand Djokovic a 1-0 lead.

Serbia finished the sweep with a doubles victory, as Viktor Troicki and Nikola Cacic defeated Peter Polansky and Adil Shamasdin 6-3 6-2.

Serbia will face Russia in Saturday’s semifinals at Sydney.

 

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