A visibly agitated Rafael Nadal has delivered a backhander to ATP Cup organisers, complaining about scheduling after he suffered a rare singles defeat and Spain just scraped through to play Australia in the semi-finals of the men’s team event.
The world number one was not at his best on Friday — and into the early hours of Saturday, losing in straight sets to Belgium’s David Goffin and going down a set in the deciding doubles rubber.
Fortunately for Spain, Roberto Bautista Agut’s earlier singles victory and a doubles win for Nadal and Pablo Carreno Busta in a third-set super tiebreak in the doubles ensured the favourites progressed to the last four.
But Nadal was far from happy, complaining about the lack of ventilation in Sydney’s Ken Rosewall Arena before broadening his attack to the tournament scheduling.
“David played a great match. Better than me. I was suffering a lot physically today. Was big humidity,” he said.
“But at the same time it is fair to say that we are in the worst position to play the final eight, because we came from Perth.
“That’s these three hours’ time changing, 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 [in] Perth and arriving here during the evening with jet lag, with everything.
“And today we had very heavy conditions out there, so probably we had the worst situation possible to play this tie.”
Russian Daniil Medvedev had also complained about his side’s move from Perth on Thursday, saying he had slept only five hours in two days and that the conditions were very different on the eastern seaboard.
But he did win his quarter-final singles match in Sydney, helping his side through to the last four against Novak Djokovic’s Serbian squad.
De Minaur, Kyrgios forming a lethal tandem
Even Australian Alex de Minaur completely missed a smash during his singles loss to Great Britain’s Dan Evans in their quarter-final, appearing to lose the ball in the surrounds of the new roof.
Nick Kyrgios rallied to beat Cameron Norrie, though, and captain Lleyton Hewitt put his two young stars into the deciding doubles match, where they came through in the clutch with a 3-6, 6-3, 18-16 win.
Next up is the challenge of Spain, with de Minaur set to play Nadal, and Kyrgios to line up against Bautista Agut on Saturday evening.
With de Minaur coming off a career year in 2019, and Kyrgios thriving as he usually does while playing team tennis, Australia’s run through the ATP Cup was relatively easy until the quarters.
They, along with doubles specialists Chris Guccione and John Peers, won their first three ties 3-0 against Germany, Canada and Greece, before the tight 2-1 battle with Great Britain.
Hewitt said Kyrgios and de Minaur’s bond helped them through the tough clash with the Brits, giving the more senior of the pair a lot of credit for his role as a leader when de Minaur was running the drinks in the Davis Cup.
“[Kyrgios] went out of his way when we put a lot of faith in Alex,” Hewitt said.
“Nick was fantastic with him. He’s always been great with the orange boys, the younger kids when they come. He enjoys the two-on-one sessions, working them really hard.
“I think he gets enjoyment out of that, and Alex was never a kid who was ever going to give in or show pain and I think Nick appreciated that as well.
“So they’ve struck up a really good friendship because of that.”