Can Rafael Nadal win his first Australian Open since 2009? The world number one continues his quest against Federico Delbonis in the second round on Thursday.

Only one adrift of Roger Federer's record haul of 20 grand slams, Nadal has reached four finals at Melbourne Park without success since claiming his sole Norman Brookes Challenge Cup 11 years ago.

Nadal did, however, sweep the French and US Open titles last year after he was completely outclassed by Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open decider.

We take a closer look at the 33-year-old as he prepares for another match in Melbourne.

 

Form and results

Nadal had little problems in his straight-sets win against Bolivia's Hugo Dellien. Forced to grind early, the top seed eventually outclassed the world number 73 in just over two hours on Rod Laver Arena. A total of 38 winners and eight breaks proved the difference for the relentlessly consistent Nadal.

R1: bt Dellien 6-2 6-3 6-0

Next up

Nadal - who boasts a 3-0 head-to-head record - will look to maintain his perfect run against Delbonis, though this is the first clash outside of South America. Argentine veteran Delbonis advanced to the second round thanks to a straight-sets victory over Joao Sousa on Tuesday. This is only the second time Delbonis has made it beyond the first round of the Australian Open - he reached the third round in 2016.

Draw

An all-Spanish affair could await Nadal in the third round, with Pablo Carreno Busta looming depending on results. Things could get juicy in the fourth round if the superstar makes it that far. Nick Kyrgios, who has history with Nadal, might stand in the way of a quarter-final berth.

What he said

"I have been a break up twice in the fifth set and I lost. Another time I have been injured in a final, of course, against a great opponent. At that time against an opponent that in that moment I have been, like, 14-0 against him on the head-to-head record. I had a problem on my luck in the final. Then other times, like 2018, I get injured against [Marin] Cilic. I went through a couple of things, more than in New York honestly. But I don't know. Maybe the conditions are better for me in New York than here."

Rafael Nadal acknowledged he had displayed "caution" in his straightforward first-round win over Hugo Dellien at the Australian Open, while Daniil Medvedev tasted victory in his opening match.

World number one Nadal eased to a 6-2 6-3 6-0 victory in just over two hours at Rod Laver Arena, hitting 38 winners to 21 unforced errors.

Nadal, who had his serve broken twice, stepped it up a gear in a ruthless third set, but initially was more focused on not making any silly mistakes.

"It was a solid start," Nadal said after booking a round-two match against Federico Delbonis, who won his match with Joao Sousa.

"The third set was a great set, I think I played a very good level of tennis. The first two I played with a little bit more caution. 

"I was just trying to not do something very good, but not do something very bad. Just trying to play a solid game with not many mistakes. Just try to do the things I know that I can do, try to put myself on rhythm. 

"That was my goal at the beginning of the match. Then, of course, with an advantage on the score, I just tried to play the way that I really believe I need to play if I want to have a positive result here."

 

MEDVEDEV THROUGH AFTER TIAFOE SCARE

Fourth seed Medvedev dropped a set against Frances Tiafoe but ultimately prevailed 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-2 in two hours and 36 minutes.

World number five Dominic Thiem made an impressive start with a 6-3 7-5 6-2 victory over Adrian Mannarino.

Home hope Nick Kyrgios won two tie-breaks on his way to a win in his match with Lorenzo Sonego, coming out on top 6-2 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-1), while Gael Monfils and Andrey Rublev progressed into round two.

After his troubling performance at the ATP Cup, Alexander Zverev made a positive start in Melbourne with a 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 victory against Italian Marco Cecchinato.

ANOTHER CANADIAN STAR FALLS

After Denis Shapovalov fell on day one, 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime succumbed to a stunning defeat on Tuesday.

He was beaten by Latvian veteran Ernests Gulbis, who emerged a 7-5 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 winner after three hours and 35 minutes.

"Every time you come to Australia the main goal is the Aussie Open, so it's not good," Auger-Aliassime said. 

"That’s what the results show. But at the same time I am staying calm and positive because I feel I am not far from playing well and winning matches."

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 28th seed, is also out. He pulled out with a back injury while two sets to one down against Australian Alexei Popyrin.

FOGNINI MAKES DRAMATIC ESCAPE

Fabio Fognini started Tuesday two sets down against American Reilly Opelka, but the Italian turned it around to escape with a dramatic 3-6 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-3 7-6 (10-5) victory.

In the other matches that had to be completed on day two after rain delays on Monday, Roberto Bautista Agut beat Feliciano Lopez in straight sets, while Milos Raonic and Jannik Sinner also sealed their progress with straight-set wins.

Rafael Nadal insists he is unfazed about potentially winning his 20th grand slam title at the Australian Open.

The world number one started his campaign in Melbourne with a 6-2 6-3 6-0 victory over Hugo Dellien on Tuesday.

After winning two grand slams last year, Nadal is just one away from joining Roger Federer on a men's record 20 major titles.

But the Spaniard is refusing to think about potentially reaching the tally ahead of a second-round match with Federico Delbonis or Joao Sousa.

"No. I think about Sousa or Delbonis. That's all. I think about my practice of tomorrow, try to follow up the level of tennis that I played in the third set. That should be my main goal today," Nadal told a news conference.

"I need to play at my highest level if I want to keep going in the tournament. If I am able to reach my highest level, that's the thing that I have to worry about. If I am able to play at my highest level, normally I am able to produce some good chances. If not, impossible.

"I don't care about 20 or 15 or 16. I just care about try to keep going, keep enjoying my tennis career. It's not like 20 is the number that I need to reach. If I reach 20, fantastic. If I reach 21, better. If I reach 19, super happy about all the things that I did in my tennis career.

"I am very satisfied about my tennis career because I give it all most of the time. That's the only thing that matters because, honestly, it's something I don't really think about.

"I don't think in the future achieving 21 grand slams, for example, I'm going to be happier than if I am 19 in 10 years. I won the US Open a few months ago, and I was super happy in that moment. But today I'm happier than if I didn't win the US Open? Probably not. That's the only thing that matters in this life.

"Of course, I want to do it the best way possible because that's what I am doing since the beginning of my life almost. But the only thing I can do is put all my efforts in trying to keep going the best way possible. The rest of the things, the future will see."

Rafael Nadal outclassed Hugo Dellien in a straight-sets win in the Australian Open first round on Tuesday.

The world number one proved too good for Dellien on a sunny Rod Laver Arena, winning 6-2 6-3 6-0 in two hours, two minutes.

Nadal's bid to join Roger Federer on 20 grand slam titles started with a comfortable victory, although he was forced to grind early.

In the end, the Spaniard's relentless consistency was too much for Bolivian world number 73 Dellien, with either Federico Delbonis or Joao Sousa awaiting Nadal in the second round.

Dellien tried to match it with Nadal from the baseline during a lengthy first set, but he made too many mistakes – 20 unforced errors – to seriously threaten.

A forehand winner gave Nadal a break and 2-0 lead and he took the opening five games before Dellien got on the board, but the Spaniard closed out a 52-minute first set.

Dellien stayed with Nadal until the sixth game of the second set, but the pair traded breaks before the latter struck again to take complete control of the encounter.

Nadal broke Dellien's resistance – and serve – to begin the third set on his way to a commanding victory.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Rafael Nadal [1] bt Hugo Dellien 6-2 6-3 6-0

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 38/21
Dellien – 15/34

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 5/5
Dellien – 0/2

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 8/18
Dellien – 2/5

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Nadal – 62
Dellien – 72

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Nadal – 70/59
Dellien – 50/32

TOTAL POINTS
Nadal – 96
Dellien – 64

Rafael Nadal's bid to join Roger Federer on 20 grand slam titles begins against Hugo Dellien at the Australian Open on Tuesday.

Spanish star Nadal won two majors last year, taking his tally to 19 after clinching the US Open crown.

But despite making four finals since 2012, Nadal has failed to add to his one crown in Melbourne, where he was successful in 2009.

We take a closer look at where the 33-year-old is at as he prepares to begin his Australian Open campaign.

 

Form and results

Nadal prepared for the year's first grand slam by playing at the ATP Cup, where he appeared in decent form. He posted wins over Pablo Cuevas, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Yoshihito Nishioka and Alex de Minaur, but was also beaten twice, going down to David Goffin and Novak Djokovic as Spain finished as runners-up.

First up

He will face Dellien for the first time when the duo meet in Melbourne. The Bolivian enjoyed a good 2019, although the majority of his success came on the Challenger Tour. Dellien held a 12-16 win-loss record at ATP Tour level, while he was destroyed 6-0 6-1 by Michael Mmoh in qualifying in Auckland to begin 2020. Nadal has lost just once in the first round at the Australian Open – in 2016 – but it is hard to see a repeat upset.

Draw

Nadal will face either Federico Delbonis or Joao Sousa if he gets past Dellien as expected. In the third round, fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta may await.

What he said

"It's true that I went through some tough situations during all my career, but I was able to always, with probably the positive attitude and with the right people around, that they were a key, I was able to find a way to keep going. It's something that's difficult to imagine for me because for my style of game, as a lot of people said my career should be little bit shorter. But here we are. Happy for that. Even for me is a big surprise to be where I am at my age. So happy for everything. Just enjoying the situation."

The 108th edition of the Australian Open begins on Monday as the world's best tennis players battle it out at the first grand slam of 2020.

Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka will return to defend the titles they won last year, adding to the event's storied history.

The pair will face stiff competition from stacked fields in the men's and women's draw as a host of players seek glory in Melbourne.

To whet your appetite for the forthcoming feast of tennis, here is a selection of the best Opta facts related to the Australian Open.

 

- The last three years have seen the 12 women's grand slam tournaments being won by 10 different players; only Simona Halep and Osaka have won twice in that span.

- Djokovic won his seventh Australian Open title in 2019, the most of any male player in the history of the tournament. He has won the event every time he has reached the semi-finals.

- Of the last 14 editions of the Australian Open, 12 have been won by either Djokovic (7) or Roger Federer (5) – Rafael Nadal (2009) and Stan Wawrinka (2014) are the only other winners in that period.

- Victoria Azarenka (2012, 2013), Serena Williams (2009, 2010) and Jennifer Capriati (2001, 2002) are the only women to have won successive titles at the Australian Open since 2000.

- Federer won his sixth Australian Open title in 2018, 14 years after his first win at the event; no player has won multiple Australian Open titles over a longer period in the Open Era. It is his last win in a grand slam tournament to date.

- Since 2005 only Williams (2010, 2015) and Azarenka (2013) have won the title at the Australian Open as the number one ranked player in the world.

- Williams has not won any of the last 11 grand slams, with her last victory coming at the Australian Open in 2017 when she was pregnant – this is the American's longest span without a major title.

- Petra Kvitova lost in the final of the Australian Open last year, the only time she went further than the quarter-finals in her last 19 grand slam appearances, since winning Wimbledon in 2014.

- Either Nadal or Andy Murray has been the runner-up in nine of the last 10 Australian Open men's finals, Murray losing five times and Nadal four. Marin Cilic in 2018 is the only other player to lose an Australian Open final in that span.

- The last time an Australian made it to the men's final at the Australian Open was Lleyton Hewitt in 2005 and the last Australian to win the title was Mark Edmondson in 1976 (against fellow Australian John Newcombe).

Daniil Medvedev accepts the 'Big Three' will be hard to stop at the Australian Open, but said he was gaining confidence from facing the all-time greats.

After a superb 2019 that included a run to the US Open final, Medvedev is considered one of the contenders in Melbourne, where the year's first grand slam starts on Monday.

But 14 of the past 16 Australian Opens have been won by Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, and the trio are again the favourites.

Medvedev, the fourth seed who will face Frances Tiafoe in a tricky opener, said regularly facing the greats gave him confidence.

"I think playing against them from time to time, especially the further you go in the big tournaments, the more chances you have to play them," he told a news conference on Saturday.

"The more times you play them, the more you know where you are comparing to them. For example, match in ATP Cup, Novak was kind of all over me. I managed to get back, almost win the match. I mean, he still won it. They won the whole ATP Cup. But I felt I was really close.

"Matches like this give you confidence to see that you're able to do it, but it's really tough."

Medvedev's run to the final at Flushing Meadows was the first time he had been beyond the fourth round of a grand slam.

The Russian, 23, said he was eyeing at least the quarter-finals in Melbourne this year.

"It's always tough to answer. Good Australian Open is to win it, but if you ask me what I'm going to be happy about, it always depends of course who you play, who you lose to," Medvedev said.

"But I would say I will be happy with quarters. As I always say, for me the first goal is to win it step by step.

"If I'm in quarters, I'm not going to be there and say, 'Okay, I've done my goal, it's enough for this tournament.'

"Any tournament I play, I want to win it. But quarters will be satisfying, I would say."

Defending champion Novak Djokovic could meet Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, while Venus Williams has again been pitted against Coco Gauff.

Gauff produced one of 2019's most remarkable results when she beat five-time Wimbledon champion Williams in the first round at the All England club, and the 15-year-old will again face her compatriot in the opening round of 2020's first major.

Serena Williams starts her latest quest for a 24th grand slam singles title against another teenager, Anastasia Potapova, and she could be on for a quarter-final against defending champion Naomi Osaka, who plays Marie Bouzkova in round one.

Ashleigh Barty, who heads into her home slam at the top of the WTA rankings, begins her campaign against Lesia Tsurenko and could meet last year's runner-up Petra Kvitova in the last eight.

Fourth seed Simona Halep takes on Jennifer Brady in round one, with Maria Sharapova facing a difficult opener against Donna Vekic and second seed Karolina Pliskova meeting Kristina Mladenovic.

World number two Djokovic faces a tough start to his title defence in Melbourne against Jan-Lennard Struff, who climbed 20 places in the ATP rankings between January 2019 and this year.

Federer, seeking his 21st grand slam title and seventh in Australia, begins against American Steve Johnson and could face a round-of-16 match with Grigor Dimitrov, who won their last meeting at the quarter-final stage of the US Open.

Djokovic is on course to meet Federer in the semis but Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has beaten the Serbian twice in four meetings, may lie in wait first at the quarter-final stage.

World number one Rafael Nadal meets Hugo Dellien in the first round and could face home favourite Nick Kyrgios in round four.

Dominic Thiem could await Nadal in the quarter-finals, the Austrian beginning his quest for a maiden grand slam triumph against Adrian Mannarino.

World number four Daniil Medvedev has a difficult opening match against Frances Tiafoe, with Alexander Zverev a possible last-eight opponent.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have made a joint donation of 250,000 Australian dollars to the bushfire relief fund.

World number one Nadal announced the decision while taking part in the star-studded Rally4Relief event, which also included the likes of Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams.

"Talking with Roger we decided to give 250,000 Australian dollars to the fire relief together," Nadal said when he was addressing the crowd.

"Hopefully that keeps inspiring the people to support this terrible disaster we are going through and helps to recover all the things that we need."

Players have announced a range of ways to support the bushfire relief efforts ever since Nick Kyrgios declared he would pay $200 for every ace he hits during the Australian summer, as well as calling on Tennis Australia to organise Wednesday's event.

Nadal, Federer and the other players involved took part in a series of matches and challenges while wearing a microphone to entertain the Melbourne crowd.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Naomi Osaka, Caroline Wozniacki, Coco Gauff and Petra Kvitova all took part.

Williams donated all of her Auckland Open winner's earnings and each of the dresses she had worn during the tournament after her victory in New Zealand last week, while Djokovic has also made a contribution.

The event came after Australian Open organisers imposed a two-hour delay on the start of qualifying matches due to the "very poor" air quality.

Bushfires across Australia have resulted in the deaths of at least 28 people, while an estimated 10 million hectares of land has been burned since July 1.

The Rally4Relief helped the overall fund reach just under $5million

Federer said: "Incredible number, so much needed, hope it keeps going. The Australian Open is only just around the corner now and hopefully much more money will come together. This was definitely an incredible kick off.

"This country all comes together for other people and that is a true inspiration for other countries around the world who are watching this now."

Novak Djokovic believes there is no clear favourite for the men's singles at the Australian Open and says the 'big three' will be challenged at the opening slam of the year.

The last 12 majors have been shared between Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, with Stan Wawrinka the last man other than the trio to win a slam at the 2016 US Open.

Djokovic impressed during the inaugural ATP Cup last week, scoring wins over Nadal, Daniil Medvedev and Kevin Anderson en route to helping Serbia to glory.

The 16-time slam winner accepts the usual suspects will be considered favourites in Melbourne, but tipped the likes of Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem to challenge.

"I think it's really open, the Australian Open or any other slam," Djokovic told reporters.

"I don't think there are really clear favourites. You have obviously Federer, Nadal, myself because of the experience and everything and the rankings that we get to be probably named the top three favourites.

"But then you have Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem that are really showing some amazing tennis.

"They showed that they matured on the big stage, that they can challenge the best players in the world and win against them.

"So, everybody keeps on talking about a NextGen player winning a slam. It seems like it's getting closer. Hopefully not this year. We'll see."

While Djokovic and Nadal have geared up for the Australian Open by playing the ATP Cup, helping Serbia and Spain to the final respectively, Federer opted to stay home and train in his native Switzerland.

Federer insists he has no fitness concerns despite not playing a competitive match since November.

"I've trained long and hard in the off-season and I didn't have any setbacks, which is crucial," Federer said.

On the continued success he, Djokovic and Nadal have enjoyed, Federer added: "I'm aware that at 38 I shouldn't be the favourite, it should be someone probably in their 20s, but the three of us have been able to stay as the favourites, which is great for us.

"Both guys are already showing great signs. I was watching a little bit of their ATP Cup match and thought that was a great match.

"Both guys, injury free, are always tough to beat."

Rafael Nadal feels there needs to be an agreement between the ITF and the ATP to create a single "world cup" as opposed to the separate Davis Cup and ATP Cup.

ATP world number one Nadal starred in Spain's triumph at the Davis Cup - organised by the ITF - in November, but he and his country were on the losing side at the inaugural ATP Cup on Sunday, going down to Novak Djokovic's Serbia.

The Spaniard enjoyed the new tournament but suggested the two competitions were a source of confusion.

"[The ATP Cup] is a long competition. It's a tough way to start the season," Nadal said. "I don't know. I think it's a great competition but, at the same time, I can't change my mind.

"Two world cups in [just over] one month is not real. It's not possible. So, we need to find a way to fix it and we need to find a way to make a big deal with ITF and ATP to create a big world team cup competition, not two world cups in one month.

"I think that's confusing for the spectators. We need to be clear in our sport.

"And for the health of our sport and the benefit of our sport, in my opinion, it is mandatory that we fix it.

"I think it is a great competition. I am excited to be part of it, excited to represent my country.

"I enjoyed sharing the week with my friends on the team. The organisation has been fantastic, honestly, everything as good as possible. Just, in my mind, we need to create one thing and not two."

Meanwhile, Nadal was unhappy with some sections of the crowd in Sydney, where a partisan Serbian contingent roared on rival Djokovic, who beat the world number one 6-2 7-6 (7-4) in the second singles rubber, before joining forces with Viktor Troicki to beat Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez 6-3 6-4 in the doubles decider.

"Honestly, the crowd was fantastic every single day," Nadal continued. "But, sometimes, people from some countries, they probably don't understand how tennis is.

"They think it is more like football, but the atmosphere in tennis is different. The respect for the players should be there. At some point, the respect - from a small part of the crowd - was not there."

Novak Djokovic drove Serbia to glory in the ATP Cup final, sinking Spain with a sublime singles win over Rafael Nadal and a clinical doubles performance.

Tuning up for the defence of his Australian Open title, Djokovic helped Serbia recover from the loss of the first singles rubber, when Roberto Bautista Agut scored a 7-5 6-1 victory over Dusan Lajovic.

With the pressure growing late on Sunday evening in Sydney, Djokovic rose to the occasion against world number one Nadal and landed a 6-2 7-6 (7-4) success for a 29th win in the pair's 55-match career rivalry.

That meant the inaugural edition of this event would be decided on doubles, and while Djokovic returned after a brief break to partner Viktor Troicki for Serbia, Nadal was only a spectator.

Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez lined up for Spain, but they could not resist the Serbian pairing and fell 6-3 6-4, the match ending at 01:05 local time on Monday morning.

An emotional Djokovic said of Serbia's 2-1 triumph: "I'll remember this experience for the rest of my life as it is definitely one of the nicest moments in my career."

Nadal was as intense at courtside as he can be in match action, but he was also essentially powerless to influence the outcome as Davis Cup winners Spain fell short of what would have been a famous double.

Serbia, backed by a large contingent of their supporters roaring approval inside the Ken Rosewall Arena, moved one game away from the trophy after a strong service game from Troicki.

And while Lopez and Carreno Busta staved off the immediate threat, there was never any doubting Djokovic would complete the job once he got ball in hand.

He served out to love, sank to the court, then embraced Troicki before being mobbed by the rest of the Serbia squad.

Djokovic hurled a racket into the crowd, caught by a thrilled female fan, before he and Troicki wrapped themselves in a Serbia flag.

Djokovic said on Amazon Prime: "I've been very fortunate and blessed to have an amazing career in the last 15 years, but playing for the team and playing for the country with some of my best friends for a long, long time, you just can't match that, that's too special."

Troicki explained teaming up with Djokovic had been a treat, saying: "I remember playing with him since we were nine, 10, and to share such a moment with him... I'll remember it for the rest of my life. It's unreal."

Novak Djokovic extended his hard-court dominance against Rafael Nadal as he brought Serbia level with Spain in the ATP Cup final.

After Roberto Bautista Agut fended off Dusan Lajovic 7-5 6-1 in the opening rubber, the Sydney crowd saw the world's top two players lock horns in a critical showdown.

Djokovic took it 6-2 7-6 (7-4) for a 29th win in his 55-match rivalry with Nadal, who helped Spain win the Davis Cup last year.

And that meant the inaugural ATP Cup would be decided by a doubles showdown, which was set to get under way after 23:00 local time.

Djokovic and Nadal have played each other more times in singles than any men's tennis rival pairing in the Open era and this latest meeting went largely in keeping with recent trends.

Nadal had won three of their past five matches, but all those wins came on clay, his preferred surface, while Djokovic's successes in the mini sequence came on grass in the 2018 Wimbledon semi-finals and on hard court in last year's one-sided Australian Open final.

Djokovic was made to work harder than the scoreline suggested to take the opening set, and then the world number two withstood severe pressure on his serve in the sixth game of the second set, fending off five break points including three at love-40.

It was Nadal's turn to produce heroics in the 11th game, saving two break points - the first with a volley onto the baseline and the second when lashing a backhand clean winner down the line.

With a large Serbian contingent inside the Ken Rosewall Arena, the crowd favoured Djokovic, yet the match was still in the balance as it went to the second-set tie-break.

Djokovic gave himself a crucial mini break to lead 5-4 though, lancing a backhand out of Nadal's reach. Nadal sliced inches wide and then lashed a forehand into the net, and the rubber belonged to Serbia.

Djokovic said: "Every time I get to play Rafa, we get to play a lot of exciting points. There were some incredible exchanges today. I started off the match perfectly really, everything worked for me.

"I think my serve got me out of trouble in the second set when he was love-40. If he broke my serve at that moment, the match could have easily gone to a third set and it's anybody's game.

"I'm just really glad to hold my nerve in the end."

Serbia and Spain both prevailed in the ATP Cup to set up a dream final that could see Novak Djokovic face Rafael Nadal.

Having won all three matches of their quarter-final tie with Canada in the quarter-finals, Serbia again remained unbeaten versus Russia, while Spain dispatched hosts Australia with successive singles wins.

Reigning Australian Open champion Djokovic came through an engrossing three-setter with US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic had lost his last two meetings with Medvedev, who threatened a comeback in Sydney after he recovered from a hugely disappointing first set to force a decider.

The world number two struck the ultimately decisive break in the fifth game of the third. However, typically obdurate to the end, Medvedev had three break-back points before Djokovic finally took his second match point.

It finished, fittingly, with the type of lengthy baseline rally that defined a captivating contest, Medvedev firing a cross-court forehand into the net to give Serbia an unassailable 2-0 lead with a 6-1 5-7 6-4 victory.

Earlier Dusan Lajovic beat Karen Khachanov 7-5 7-6 (7-1), and Serbia also came through in the dead rubber doubles clash as Nikola Cacic and Viktor Troicki defeated Teymuraz Gabashvili and Konstantin Kravchuk.

Paying tribute to Medvedev, Djokovic said of the match: "[It was] exciting, exhausting, joyful, dreadful all at once. At one point we both refused to miss from the baseline, so it was a lot of rallies and it was very exhausting. A very physical battle, but also a mental battle.

"He showed why he's one of the best players in the world, why he's top five. This kind of consistency and this kind of solid game from back of the court, big serves, got him to where he is. He deserves to be there.

"[It was] definitely one of the most exciting matches I have played against him or any other top player in the last few years."

World number one Nadal was similarly tested by Alex de Minaur, whose energy and intensity had the home crowd in Sydney on their feet as he took the first set in his quest to level the tie after Roberto Bautista Agut easily beat Nick Kyrgios 6-1 6-4.

US Open champion Nadal did not have a break point until the 12th game of the second, but he took it to force a decider and subsequently raced away to claim a 4-6 7-5 6-1 success.

Wary of the obvious threat posed by Djokovic and Serbia in the final, Nadal said on court: "It's going to be a super tough final against Serbia.

"Novak likes to play here and Serbia has a great team and is playing very well. But Roberto played an amazing match this afternoon and we have a good team, so we are ready for it."

Rafael Nadal aimed a verbal volley at ATP Cup organisers by saying Spain were dealt a rough hand for their Final 8 clash with Belgium.

The world number one suffered a shock 6-4 7-6 (7-3) defeat to David Goffin in the second singles rubber, after Roberto Bautista Agut overcame Kimmer Coppejans in the opener.

Nadal and Bautista Agut later scrambled a 6-7 (7-9) 7-5 10-7 doubles victory over Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen to carry Spain through to the semi-finals.

The inaugural ATP Cup saw its pool matches split between Sydney and Brisbane on the Australian east coast, and Perth on the west coast, which is where Spain were initially stationed.

The tournament's final stages are being held in Sydney, though, and that meant a long journey for Spain, and a quick turnaround once they arrived in Australia's largest city.

Nadal paid Goffin a compliment by saying: "David played a great match, better than me."

But the 19-time grand slam winner made it clear he was not happy, saying the humidity inside the Ken Rosewall Arena should have been taken into account, pointing to the ventilation technology available to make conditions more comfortable for players.

"I was suffering a lot physically today," Nadal said.

"It was big humidity, but at the same time it’s fair to say we were in the worst position to play the Final 8, because we came from Perth. That is a three-hour time change, different weather conditions, playing against a team that have been here for the last 10 days and we are the only team coming from Perth and playing until the last day of Perth.

"And arriving here at two in the evening with jetlag, with everything, and today we had very heavy conditions out there.

"So probably we had the worst situation possible to play this tie."

Spain survived though, setting up a clash with hosts Australia in the final four on Saturday.

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