Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews this year’s edition of the ATP Cup.
Welcome to Australia this week for the unofficial launch of this 2021 tennis season.
If the pandemic has taught us anything over the past year or so, it’s that there’s always a good reason or rationalization to hold sporting events if you’re looking for one. And once you have accustomed your fans and public to hosting sporting events in the face of just about anything, well then suddenly you never have to worry about cancelling or postponing them again. Not even if your players arrive in a foreign country where its own citizens stay stranded abroad. Not even when you put your players under ludicrous quarantine conditions just so they can one day in a near future hit tennis balls on your courts.
Welcome to the wonderful world of tennis, where the tennis will keep on tennis-ing under any and almost every condition. This week we’re in Australia for the 2021 ATP Cup. Remember the ATP Cup, this new event that men’s tennis introduced to the world a whopping 12 months ago and that sort of acts as a Davis Cup 2.0 even though it surely isn’t that?
Yeah, we don’t either. It’s been a weird and hellish year, we don’t know if you’ve heard, and we won’t hold it against anyone for feeling like their daily lives are a dense and foggy day that keeps on repeating itself.
That said, welcome to the second annual ATP Cup. In this space, we’ll do our best to give analysis and predictions on how we think this event might unfold.
This Group A between defending champions Serbia, Germany and Canada has to be the group of death, doesn’t it? Novak Djokovic is here and likely motivated to do well, so Serbia starts the event with a leg up on everyone. Then we have a German team that will go as far as Alexander Zverev takes it. Canada, finally, has two great singles players in Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov and might steal second place but anything more is probably a dream.
Throughout his career, the great Rafael Nadal has lost a single Davis Cup singles match; while we know and understand that this ATP Cup isn’t quite the same thing, the point remains that team competitions typically work well with Nadal’s game. Last we checked, Spain finished last year’s round robin at the ATP Cup with a perfect 9-0 record, with 18 sets won against only two lost. Nadal does lose matches in team events but until he proves that it happens more than once every few years, we’ll roll with his squad.
Welcome to the one group where everyone has a shot. Look, Austria has Dominic Thiem, who very well might not lose a singles match during the entire week but it’s rather grim beyond him. Italy has maybe the deepest team in the entire tournament and could either win or lose every match 3-0. Meanwhile, France has the two most mercurial singles players in Gael Monfils and Benoit Paire to complement the very best doubles team at this event.
For Russia here, it’s semifinals or bust. The headliners of this final group have a loaded team and possibly the group’s two best players in Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev. Taking on Diego Schwartzman’s Argentina and Kei Nishikori’s Japan should be no problem here. But of course, weird things can and do happen in team competitions. Just, you know, not usually.
Semifinals: Serbia defeats France; Spain defeats Russia
Final: Spain defeats Serbia
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG