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Spain, Poland win second consecutive matches at ATP Cup to remain perfect

Spain and Poland remained perfect at the ATP Cup, securing winning 2-0 leads in their games Monday for their second consecutive triumphs in the team event.

Roberto Bautista Agut clinched the match for Spain by beating Casper Ruud of Norway 6-4, 7-6 (4) after Pablo Carreno Busta defeated Viktor Durasovic 6-3, 6-3.

Bautista Agut improved to 9-2 in singles at the team event.

“Casper is playing unbelievable tennis, (he did) an unbelievable performance last year, and today I played very good,” Bautista Agut said in his on-court interview. “I returned very well, I made very few unforced errors and I played aggressively. “

Kamil Majchrzak gave Poland the early lead over Georgia with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Aleksandre Bakshi before Hubert Hurkacz clinched it ahead of the doubles with a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-1 win over Aleksandre Metreveli.

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“He [Metreveli] played well in the first set and things were not going my way. But I got better with each set and am happy to get the win,” Hurkacz said.

Spain and Poland later both won their doubles matches to make it 3-0 scorelines.

Poland can book a place in the semifinals if it defeats Argentina on Wednesday in its next group match.

Majchrzak needed only 53 minutes to beat Bakshi.

“I was trying to move [Bakshi] around and I think that was the key to the match,” said Majchrzak, who is coached by former world seventh-ranked Joakim Nystrom.

“He brings me a lot of confidence and a lot of calm in my tennis so I can feel that I am improving,” Majchrzak said of Nystrom on the ATP Tour’s website. “We are working on (developing an all-court game) but in a way that doesn’t interrupt my baseline game. We will take it from the practice to the matches but it takes time.”

Greece plays Argentina and Serbia takes on Chile in night matches Monday.

The four group winners in the 16-team tournament advance to the semifinals on Friday and Saturday, with the winners meeting in the final on Sunday.

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Djokovic pulls out of ATP Cup in Sydney

Novak Djokovic has pulled out of the Serbia team for the ATP Cup in Sydney, event organizers said on Wednesday, raising further doubts over whether the world number one will defend his Australian Open title next month.

There has been intense speculation over Djokovic’s participation in both events, with the 34-year-old, who is opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations, repeatedly declining to say if he has been inoculated against the virus.

Organizers of the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 17, have stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.

“Novak Djokovic has officially withdrawn from the ATP Cup in Sydney, we have no update as yet on his plans for the Australian Open,” a Tennis Australia spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

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“Regarding the medical exemption process, which pertains to all players, there is a rigorous and independent process in place. As with all medical information it is subject to confidentiality.”

The global men’s tennis governing body ATP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ATP Cup organizers said Serbia’s team would now be led by world number 33 Dusan Lajovic.

Owing to Djokovic’s current world ranking, Serbia received top billing for the 16-team event, which runs from Jan. 1-9, and have been drawn in Group A along with Norway, Chile and Spain.

Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles, counting the last three, and is in a three-way tie on 20 major titles with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in the all-time list.

His father Srdjan told a Serbian television channel last month that Djokovic would probably pull out nL4N2SK0VQ of the major, saying Tennis Australia’s stance on mandatory vaccination was tantamount to “blackmail”.

The season-opening ATP Cup also saw Austria, which failed the eligibility criteria following the withdrawal of Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak, replaced by France.

Russia, which won the 2021 title, will be missing Andrey Rublev and Aslan Karatsev from that team.

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Kyrgios out of Australian ATP Cup team after falling in world ranking

Nick Kyrgios has paid the price for a year of inaction over COVID-19 concerns after he was ruled out of Australia’s team for next month’s ATP Cup after his world ranking slipped to No. 46 following an 11-month absence from the ATP Tour.

The 25-year-old last played a competitive match at Acapulco in February after deciding to stay at home in Australia when the circuit resumed in Europe and North America after a hiatus.

Each nation have two singles slots that will be taken by their top-ranked players and Australia’s challenge at the ATP Cup will be led by Alex de Minaur and John Millman who are ranked 23 and 38, respectively.

The duo will be joined by doubles players John Peers and Luke Saville as Australia look to improve on their semifinal finish at last year’s inaugural tournament.

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The ATP Cup will be held from Feb. 1-5 in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open, the year’s first Grand Slam, and the event will feature world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and second-ranked Rafael Nadal.

“The players are looking forward to stepping up and representing their countries again, and the field, including defending champions Serbia and finalists Spain, is strong,” tournament director Tom Larner said.

“This is a format that shows off the passion of the players, and we’re expecting some spectacular tennis action.”

The draw for the ATP Cup will take place on Jan. 20.

Kyrgios, often branded “polarising” for his long rap sheet of indiscretions, had been a galvanising force in raising funds and awareness for Australian bushfire relief efforts during the ATP Cup last year.

He will now play in Melbourne 2, one of two ATP 250 events being held alongside the ATP Cup. Melbourne Park is also hosting two WTA 500 tournaments alongside the event.

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