Nadal seals Spain’s victory; Croatia, Japan triumph

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BRISBANE: Weeks after leading Spain to a Davis Cup title, Rafael Nadal is doing his best to do it again at the the ATP Cup, the newest of the men’s international team competitions.

The top-ranked Nadal beat Pablo Cuevas 6-2, 6-1 in Perth on Monday to secure Spain’s win in the best-of-three encounter against Uruguay ahead of the doubles. Spain now have two wins from two starts in Group B and next faces unbeaten Japan to determine first place and automatic qualification for the playoffs in Sydney.

Roberto Bautista Agut was equally ruthless in getting Spain started when he beat unranked 19-year-old Franco Roncadelli 6-1, 6-2.

Nadal won his fourth title in the Davis Cup, the traditional men’s team competition, in November. He said he thrives in the team environment. The six group winners and the two best second-place teams qualify for the quarterfinals. Second-ranked Novak Djokovic gave Serbia a shot at a second victory when he extended his tour-level unbeaten streak against Gael Monfils to 16 wins with a 6-3, 6-2 victory in Brisbane. Benoit Paire had given France the lead with a 6-2, 5-7 (6), 6-4 win in his singles against Dusan Lajovic. The Group A match will now be decided by doubles.

In Sydney, Austria clinched victory over Argentina with wins in both singles matches. Fourth-ranked Dominic Thiem beat Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 7-6 (3) after Dennis Novak rallied from a slow start to beat Guido Pella 0-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Both countries are 1-1 in the Group E standings, which are led by unbeaten Croatia. Novak, ranked No. 101, said a few pointers from Austria captain Thomas Muster helped calm him down after the first set.

After the first set I went to a break with Thomas, and I came out and changed a little bit my game and fought back,” Novak said. “I think at the end I played really good tennis. Former US Open champion Marin Cilic had too much experience for No. 448-ranked Kacper Zuk, setting up Croatia’s victory over Poland with a 7-6 (8), 6-4 win. Cilic s was only able to convert one of his 13 break-point chances against Zuk.

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