BRISBANE, Australia (AP) – Novak Djokovic spent more jobs than he expected in his first competitive game of 2020 before beating Kevin Anderson 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6) on Saturday night to secure the Serbia victory over South Africa in the ATP Cup.
Djokovic, number 2 in the world and winner of seven Australian Open titles, was encouraged by the numerous Serbian attendance at the Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane to ensure that his country opened the first team event in the campaign with a victory in the group A.
In Group B, number 1 Rafael Nadal had an easier test to seal Spain's victory over Georgia, on the opposite side of Australia, beating Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 7-5 in Perth. Roberto Bautista Agut started things for Spain with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Aleksandre Metreveli.RELATED
Anderson came from a season plagued by injuries, including an operation on his right knee in September, and was unable to initially contain Djokovic, who barely gave up two points in the first three road games to a 4-1 lead.
But the South African gradually composed and broke Djokovic's serve in the seventh game and saved five breakpoints in the eighth to match the actions.
The second set was spent with both players defending their services and closed with another tiebreaker, with Anderson having the opportunity to serve for the set in 6-5 when he released a crossed winner. But he crashed a shot on the net and Djokovic finished it with a volley.
Previously, Dusan Lajovic had defeated Lloyd Harris 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 to give Serbia 1-0.
Gael Monfils secured France's first victory in the new ATP Cup after beating 6-3, 7-5 to Chilean Cristian Garín after a comeback in the second set and saving three break points when he served to win.
Benoite Paire opened the duel of Group A defeating Nicolás Jarry 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-3 and Monfils secured the victory in the second individual game before the doubles, in which Jarry and Garín took Rematch.
Croatia won Austria when Bornic Coric surprised with a 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-3 victory in Sydney over world number 4 Dominic Thiem. Marin Cilic had won the first single duel, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4 over Denis Novak.
Japan also started the tournament with good footing in Perth by sweeping Uruguay in Group B thanks to triumphs in straight sets in the clashes between Go Soeda and Martín Cuevas (6-1, 6-3) and Yoshihito Nishioka and Pablo Cuevas (6- 0, 6-1).
Argentina needed to win the doubles to defeat Poland 2-1 at a Group E crossing in Sydney. Guido Pella beat the South Americans by beating Kamil Majchrzak 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, and Hubert Hurkacz balanced the board by defeating Diego Schwartzman 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Máximo González and Andrés Molteni beat Hurkacz and Lukasz Kubot 6-2, 6-4 in doubles to tip the balance on the Argentine side.
"We had the responsibility to go out and give the point to Argentina, so it was really exciting," Molteni said after the game. "We are very happy to play good and give the point to Argentina."
The final of the new ATP calendar team tournament, in which 24 countries participate and which started on Friday in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, will be held on January 12 in Sydney to allow time for players to prepare for the First grand slam of the year, the Australian Open, in Melbourne.