Eight was more than enough for Novak Djokovic at the first ATP Cup. Djokovic could not have been better: eight matches played, eight matches won, leading Serbia to the title which was sealed with a win over Rafael Nadal and Spain in the final on Sunday.
The 8-0 mark is unblemished and perfect, but beyond the boatload of victories, the much bigger statement made by Djokovic was his ability to play a long and draining three-set match against Daniil Medvedev — nearly three hours — on Saturday and then bounce right back to play forceful and clean tennis against Nadal the next day.
This is still a tennis player who is operating at the height of his powers. His elbow was getting massaged in the early stages of this ATP Cup, but nothing about Djokovic looked out of joint — or out of order — in his final two emphatic statements Down Under. Djokovic’s game is clearly ready for the Australian Open.
The main question is obvious: Is his body ready?
Djokovic played a truckload of tennis to start the year, and now he needs to recover before the party starts in Melbourne on Monday, Jan. 20. More will be written on this topic as we get closer to the start of the Australian Open, but everyone in tennis can see that recovery and match management — being efficient — will be necessary parts of a Djokovic repeat in the year’s first major.
One fascinating question connected to Djokovic’s ATP Cup conquest is this: Will he derive more satisfaction from beating Daniil Medvedev or Rafael Nadal?
That might seem like a stupid question — the best answer is both — but I ask the question because while Nadal is a gold standard (as is Djokovic) and a champion of the highest order, Medvedev had been a complicated puzzle for Djokovic to solve in 2019.
Djokovic’s ability to find answers to Medvedev’s complicated questions could be more liberating — and beneficial — at the Australian Open than a hardcourt win over Nadal, which has become a regular part of the Rafole rivalry in recent years.
Nadal is never a player who should be written off, but we can certainly say that if Nadal and Djokovic meet in another Australian Open final, only one of the two men will have total trust that when the chips are down, he can find a path to victory.
That is a big thing for Djokovic to carry into the 2020 Australian Open, where he is the obvious favorite after this display at the ATP Cup.