The Davis Cup — no, not the Pique Cup, but the ORIGINAL Davis Cup — earned a reputation for elevating tennis players who, within the workings of the normal tour, live a life removed from the spotlight.
It was and is one of the charms of Davis Cup that it could create magic moments and cherished memories not just for fans of various countries, but for players who wouldn’t make major semifinals or Masters 1000 finals.
Davis Cup could magnify Steve Darcis of Belgium, or Viktor Troicki of Serbia, or Federico Delbonis of Argentina. It gave those players an experience they will never, ever forget. That is beautiful… and it is why Davis Cup — the real thing, not the knock-off called Pique Cup — is special.
As much as some of us in tennis might dislike Pique Cup, however, one has to admit that the tournament still lived up to the Davis Cup identity by bringing forth brilliant tennis from Vasek Pospisil of Canada, who was on fire last November in Madrid. Tennis — even while messing with one of its enduring and revered tournaments — still gave us that familiar story of a comparatively unheralded player forging euphoric moments he will personally value when his playing days are over.
With all of this as background, one of the central tasks of the first ATP Cup was to create this identity on its own. It can’t be manufactured or wished into being. It has to be authored by the athletes themselves.
Very simply, Dusan Lajovic has become the best possible advertisement for the ATP Cup in its first year of existence. What others have done in Davis Cup, and what Pospisil did in Pique Cup, Lajovic has done in the inaugural ATP Cup.
He beat Nicolas Jarry, which was — in its own right — an encouraging result, but then Lajovic stepped up in weight class and didn’t miss a beat. He took down Felix Auger-Aliassime and did so rather decisively.
He wasn’t done.
Lajovic then defeated Karen Khachanov in a close match on Saturday in the Serbia-Russia semifinal tie, committing only 16 unforced errors and not facing a single break point. The ATP Cup has elicited a transformation from Lajovic, inspiring the 29-year-old to play his best tennis:
Lajovic in 2019 after winning Umag in July: 4-11
Lajovic at the #ATPCup: 4-1
— Gaspar Ribeiro Lança (@gasparlanca) January 11, 2020
The ATP Cup has continued the best part of the legacy of international tennis:
Lajovic with quite the upset over Khachanov. What a result. Signature moment for the ATP Cup as it provides the classic Davis Cup spotlight to a journeyman player to come up huge.
— Juan José Vallejo (@jjvallejoa) January 11, 2020
The ATP Cup could not have asked for a better storyline in Year 1.