The inaugural ATP Cup occurred between January 3-12 last year in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. The newly-established ATP team event gathered 24 countries and some of the world’s leading players in singles and doubles. World no. 1 Rafael Nadal was among the top stars at the season’s first event, leading a solid Spanish squad a couple of weeks after securing the Davis Cup Finals crown at home in Madrid. Fifteen days before the event, Rafa got his mural in Perth, honored by the organizers who welcomed the 19-time Major winner. Spain faced Japan, Uruguay and Georgia, and passed all three obstacles to advance into the quarters. Nadal scored four wins from six singles encounters at the ATP Cup, earning only 250 points and standing on the verge of losing the ATP throne to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open. In the opening match, Rafa defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 7-5, struggling a bit in the second set before sealing the deal without playing a decider.
Rafael Nadal led Spain towards the final at the inaugural ATP Cup in 2020.
Nadal played better against Pablo Cuevas, toppling the Uruguayan 6-2, 6-1 and leading Spain towards another win ahead of the last round-robin clash. World no. 73 Yoshihito Nishioka made Nadal run for his money before the world’s leading player prevailed 7-6, 6-4 to wrap up the group stage with three wins and send his country into the quarters. Rafa’s first ATP Cup loss came against David Goffin, who played on a high level to beat the Spaniard 6-4, 7-6. Despite that, Spain advanced into the semis, and Nadal battled past the young gun Alex de Minaur in front of his partisan crowd to help Spain reaching the title clash against Serbia.
Facing each other for the 55th time, Nadal lost to Djokovic 6-2, 7-6 in an hour and 55 minutes and failed to seal the deal for Spain ahead of the deciding doubles rubber. It was Novak’s sixth consecutive victory at the ATP Cup, earning over 600 points and reducing the deficit to Rafa on the ATP ranking list ahead of the season’s first Major. Firing 12 aces, Novak lost only 14 points in ten service games, repelling those five break chances and stealing Rafa’s serve twice in the opener for the best start. Nadal served better in the second set and followed Djokovic’s pace after erasing two late break points, only to fall in the tie break and suffer another loss to the Serb on hard courts after the 2012 US Open final.