Last decade, Spain won two Davis Cups and an Olympic gold medal in doubles. From Bautista Agut to Ferrer to Lopez to Verdasco—with Nadal in the middle of it all—the nation is widely accepted to have the most depth in men’s tennis, and that currency for international competition has shown in a variety of impressive results.
But this decade has begun with the tennis titan looking up at another nation, one whose quality over the past week-plus in Australia proved superior to Spain's quantity, and whose star athlete is playing even better than España's own.
Both of those statements rung true in Serbia’s 6-3, 6-4 doubles victory over Spain, which saw Viktor Troicki add to his own legacy when playing for his nation, and Novak Djokovic add yet another distinction to his near-peerless resume.
"I've been very fortunate in the past to have an amazing career," Djokovic said, "but playing for your country ... you can't match that."
"I want to thank Novak for playing with me," said Troicki, who recalled their playing days as children. "I'll remember it for the rest of my life."
A slow start from Serbia, and a dismal forehand at net from Troicki, saw Spain lead by a break after justone game. That could have been fatal in this level of doubles, particularly with the experienced pair of Feliciano Lopez and Pablo Carreno Busta across the net. Nadal, who lost a potentially ATP Cup-clinching match to Djokovic earlier, did not play the doubles, and had some comments about the competition:
Interesting from Nadal. Felt he was too fatigued to play doubles, also that a section of the crowd was not acting with respect in match v Djokovic. He's still adamant that Davis Cup and ATP Cup need to merge.— Mike Dickson (@Mike_Dickson_DM) January 12, 2020
But Troicki and Djokovic would recover from a 3-1 deficit with a break back at 3-3. From that point on, Spain was under siege, with Djokovic the primary aggressor.
He did so with his return, hitting a deep ball to Spain that Troicki coolly put away at net, giving Serbia its first break lead of the match. With a love hold at 5-3, Serbia—which just hours earlier needed to win matches for the Cup—now just needed to win one more set.
He did so with his serve, too. Serbia took an early break lead to start the second set, but faced a critical, no-ad deciding point at 3-2. Djokovic's first serve didn't land in, so he fired his second serve at 183 K.P.H. (113 M.P.H.), retaining a lead Serbia would not relinquish.
"We're going to go back to Serbia and then we'll come back," said Djokovic about the post-match plans. "Just kidding!"
ATP Cup Trophy Ceremony and Speeches: