'It's difficult': Novak Djokovic's major gripe with $22 million ATP Cup

Riley Morgan
Sports Reporter

Novak Djokovic may have helped lead Serbia to the ATP Cup after a dominant performance against World No.1 Rafael Nadal, but he is still critical of the schedule right in the lead up to the Australian Open.

Making a mockery of the greatest and most enduring rivalry in open-era tennis, Djokovic smothered Nadal in straight sets for the ninth-straight time on a hard court to draw Serbia level at one rubber apiece with Spain.

But after Spain won the Davis Cup in December, Serbia lifted the ATP Cup little more than a month later in a tournament with a very similar format.

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When asked if he thought the two competitions should be combined, Djokovic said there is only room for one team tournament in the tennis schedule.

“Yes,” he said.

“Because I think it’s difficult for both events that have a very similar, if not the same format to coexist only six weeks apart.

Novak Djokovic during post match press conference at the 2020 ATP Cup Tennis at Ken Rosewall Arena on January 12, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“So I think that is an inevitable future that we are going to have one super cup.”

Djokovic also is hoping to keep his Next-Gen challengers at bay once more but is wary despite completing the "perfect" preparation for his latest Australian Open title defence.

Djokovic hot Aus Open favourite

Djokovic's ninth consecutive hardcourt win over world No.1 Rafael Nadal in Sunday night's ATP Cup final underlined the Serb's hot favouritism to claim a record-extending eighth title at Melbourne Park.

He also downed 2019 US Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev, former Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson, young guns Denis Shapovalov and Christian Garin and world No.10 Gael Monfils during the ATP Cup.

In addition he clinched the decisive doubles rubber with Victor Troicki en route to piloting Serbia to glory in the inaugural $22 million teams' event.

"It is the perfect preparation," Djokovic said.

"I didn't know what to expect from the event.

"Obviously I didn't know how deep we would go and I was hoping we would pass the group stages and see how it goes.

"But these kind of team competitions are really truly special and I'm personally over the cloud with my emotions, and hopefully I can take that positive energy and use it for Australian Open."

(L-R) Novak Djokovic, Dusan Lajovic, Nenad Zimonjic, Viktor Troicki and Nikola Cacic of Team Serbia pose with the ATP Cup during a media opportunity after winning the 2020 ATP Cup, at Mrs Macquarie's Chair on January 13, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The clinical manner in which Djokovic dealt with Nadal in the grand old stagers' 55th career showdown marked the world No.2 as clearly the man to beat at the year's first grand slam.

But the 16-times major winner is taking nothing for granted, especially after being pushed all the way in colossal three-setters against Shapovalov and Medvedev in Sydney.

Despite looking invincible on hard courts against all-comers, Djokovic also pointed to his fourth-round US Open exit as reason to tread carefully.

"I mean, look, last hard court grand slam was in New York, and Rafa won it," he said.

"So I think it's really open, the Australian Open or any other slam.

"I don't think there are really clear favourites.

"You have obviously Federer, Nadal, myself because of the experience and everything and the rankings that we get to be probably named the top three favourites, but then you have Medvedev, (Stefanos) Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem that are really showing some amazing tennis."

"London Masters was an example where they showed that they matured on the big stage, that they can challenge the best players in the world and win against them.

"So everybody keeps on talking about NextGen player winning a slam. It seems like it's getting closer. Hopefully not this year. We'll see.

"Obviously Australian Open has been my favourite tournament.

"It's the tournament where I played my best tennis, so I can't wait to go back to Rod Laver Arena and hopefully have another great tournament."

The Open draw will take place on Thursday night, with Nadal, Djokovic and Federer - with 14 titles between them - the top three men's seeds for the 10th time and third-straight year.

Medvevev's four ATP Cup wins to Thiem's one helped the Russian leapfrog the Austrian into fourth place in the world rankings, earning him a vital top-four seeding for the Open, meaning he can't face any of the big three until at least the semi-finals.