Sat 1 Jan - Sun 9 Jan 2022

ATP Cup Germany Faces Russia, Spain Meets Italy In Blockbuster ATP Cup Semi-finals

Updated2/5/2021 4:37:00 PM

After three thrilling days of group ties, four nations — last year’s finalist Spain, Russia, Germany and Italy — remain in contention for the ATP Cup trophy.

Can Russia’s two Top 10 stars — Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev — continue their strong performances and beat Germany, led by Alexander Zverev? Mischa Zverev’s line-up are proving that team unity and arcade fun each evening can lead to on-court success and a place in the semi-finals.

Spain will look to Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta to fly the flag, with vocal support on the sidelines from Rafael Nadal, in its quest to break down the Italian potency of Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini, who completed Group C with a perfect 2-0 record.

Both semi-finals will be contested simultaneously at Melbourne Park. Russia meets Germany on Rod Laver Arena, while Spain takes on Italy on John Cain Arena. The final Group D tie between Japan and Argentina will also be held on Rod Laver Arena.

Can Germany Stop Russia?
After eliminating defending champion Serbia with a dramatic 2-1 victory on Friday, Germany will enter its semi-final against Russia high on confidence. The Group A winners have shown great team spirit in their opening two ties at this year’s tournament, with singles stars Alexander Zverev and Jan-Lennard Struff leading the pack.

Across two editions of the ATP Cup, Struff has claimed five wins from seven matches. The No. 2 singles star has been in top form at this year’s event, with two singles wins and a crucial doubles Match Tie-break victory (w/Zverev) against Serbia.

Struff will need to be at his best level if he is to add another victory to his name on Saturday. One of the biggest strengths of semi-final rival Russia is its ability to field two Top 10 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings. In his role as Russia’s No. 2 singles star, World No. 8 Rublev will face Struff in the opening match of the tie.

Rublev has been in a hurry so far this week. The 2020 Nitto ATP Finals qualifier dropped a combined seven games and spent a total of two hours and four minutes on court during Group D action, where he defeated Guido Pella and Yoshihito Nishioka. 

Alexander Zverev may own a 5-3 ATP Head2Head record against Medvedev, but he will be looking for revenge when the pair meets in the No. 1 singles match. The German claimed victories in his opening four matches against Medvedev, but he has since suffered final losses to the Russian at the 2019 Rolex Shanghai Masters and the 2020 Rolex Paris Masters, as well as a round-robin defeat at the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals.

Alexander Zverev has already beaten World No. 12 Denis Shapovalov and pushed World No. 1 Novak Djokovic deep into a third set at this year’s tournament. But can he stop the Russian’s 12-match winning streak?

Medvedev has recent history on his side when he meets Alexander Zverev and he will be chasing his ninth Top 10 victory in his past 13 matches. The World No. 4 is yet to drop a set this tournament, with Group D wins against World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman and former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori to his name.

“We want to do well. We want to win. We're in the semi-finals now,” said Alexander Zverev. “We've got probably the toughest team that is left in the draw ahead of us with Russia, with two Top 10 singles guys. We've got to perform at our best to give ourselves the chance tomorrow. Who knows how it will go.”

If neither team can sweep the singles matches, the tie will be decided by a winner-takes-all doubles match. Two-time Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies are scheduled to face player/captain Evgeny Donskoy and Aslan Karatsev in that encounter. Both captains can make changes to those teams, as Germany's Mischa Zverev did to great effect against Serbia.

Will Spain Return To The Final?
Spain’s bid to claim its first ATP Cup title continues on Saturday, when the 2020 runner-up nation meets Group C winner Italy on John Cain Arena.

Carreno Busta will aim to earn his third singles victory of the tournament when he faces Fognini in the opening match of the tie. Carreno Busta owns an unbeaten 7-0 ATP Head2Head record against Fognini, but the Italian has forced four of those matches to a deciding set.

Carreno Busta has played a crucial role in Spain’s success at this year’s event. The Gijon native claimed singles and doubles (w/Granollers) wins in his nation’s opening tie against Australia on Tuesday and confirmed Spain’s spot in the semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Greece’s Michail Pervolarakis on Friday.

After falling to a 6-3, 6-2 defeat against Dennis Novak on Tuesday, Fognini will look to build on his decisive doubles win against Austria (w/Berrettini) and a 6-1, 7-6(2) triumph against Benoit Paire in Group C.

In No. 1 singles action, Bautista Agut and Berrettini will both hope to be in a position to clinch the tie for their nation.

Bautista Agut enters the match with a 7-1 record in ATP Cup singles matches. His only loss came in his most recent match, when he fell 7-5, 7-5 to Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday. The World No. 13 will face a difficult task on Saturday, when he will attempt to claim his second victory in five ATP Head2Head encounters against Berrettini.

“We are in the semi-final. We have against Italy a good tie,” said Bautista Agut. “Hopefully we can play with a good team tomorrow and get the chances to be in the final.”

World No. 10 Berrettini owns a 3-1 record against his No. 1 singles rival, which includes a final victory at the 2018 Swiss Open Gstaad. He also has form on his side, with three wins from as many matches this week.

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If the tie is all-square at 1-1 after singles action, doubles will decide which nation advances to the championship match. Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori are scheduled to face Carreno Busta and Granollers in that match, but both team captains have the option to change their selections.

Bolelli and Vavassori lost their match of this week 6-3, 6-4 to Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Carreno Busta and Granollers enter the semi-finals with one doubles victory, following their 6-4, 7-5 win against Australia’s John Peers and Luke Saville.

The Final Group Tie
Argentina and Japan both suffered losses to Russia in Group D. They will meet in the final group stage tie on Road Laver Arena. The No. 1 singles match has great potential to be a thriller, with Kei Nishikori playing Diego Schwartzman. Schwartzman is currently the higher-ranked of the two at World No. 9, but Nishikori leads their ATP Head2Head series 3-1. They are two of the purest ball-strikers on the ATP Tour, which will make for exciting baseline rallies. In their most recent clash at the 2019 Internazionali BNL d'Italia, Schwartzman emerged victorious.