The 2020 ATP Cup — the inaugural edition of the event — offers another noticeable example of competitive space. It is hard to say that a lot of pressure is attached to this event. The pressure might be self-imposed by players more than anything else. A brand-new event doesn’t carry a burden the way Wimbledon does. It’s hard to know what’s at stake when the identity and reputation of an event have no basis in history and are being established in real time.
The main value of the ATP Cup is that players are getting matches under their belt in the same continent where the year’s first significant tournament, the Australian Open, will be held in a few weeks. We won’t know what these ATP Cup matches mean until we get to Melbourne for the big show. I am not going to sit here and tell you that the ATP Cup will determine what happens in Melbourne.
I can, however, tell you that the ATP Cup will shape what we talk about when we get to Melbourne for the year’s first major.
One new talking point: Borna Coric.
The Croatian made it impossible to ignore him in the buildup to the Australian Open. Why? The answer is simple: He defeated Dominic Thiem in the ATP Cup on Saturday.
I would make zero assertions about what this match will do for each player at the Australian Open. I would be lying to you if I said this means Coric is going to make his first major quarterfinal, or that Thiem will lose early. Nope. I’m not going to go there. I’m not going to HINT at any possible verdict or opinion in terms of an Australian Open prediction.
What I will say, however, is that much as the Laver Cup refreshed Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, this unique competitive space could just as easily refresh Coric. Maybe this is the environment and context in which Coric needed to reset his batteries after a very difficult 2019 season.
This result doesn’t indicate that the Australian Open will flow in a particular direction. It does mean that an athlete has stepped into a unique competitive space and given himself a chance to produce a good season in 2020.