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- Greek tennis player
A cautious Stefanos Tsitsipas says his surgically-repaired elbow has rendered him a match-by-match proposition after the Greek star was a late withdrawal in an ATP Cup anticlimax against Poland.
The world No.4 was slated to face world No.9 Hubert Hurkacz in a must-win match after Greece's Michail Pervolarakis lost 6-1 6-4 to Poland's Kamil Majchrzak in Sydney on Saturday night.
Instead it was world No.1076 Aristotelis Thanos who walked onto court at the Qudos Bank Arena, with Tsitsipas watching on from the team bench with ice wrapped around his right elbow.
Thanos jumped two higher-ranked Greek teammates to make a surprise appearance but was outclassed 6-1 6-2 by the Australian Open smoky.
Curiously though, Tsitsipas then played doubles with apparent freedom in a three set win with Pervolarakis, before saying his elbow needed "air to breath" ahead of the year's first grand slam.
"The recovery from my elbow surgery in November is on track for Melbourne and today was a precautionary step to make sure I make Melbourne," Tsitsipas, one of the Australian Open fancies, said.
"We will see day by day, match by match until then."
The No.4's absence leaves Greece's legitimacy in the 16-team event in question, given Pervolarakis is ranked No.399 in the world.
It also spoiled the match-up of the opening day in a tournament - played in two near-empty stadiums - already without Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer for various reasons.
On Ken Rosewall Arena, Serbia won the deciding doubles rubber to beat Norway on Saturday night, after Filip Krajinovic and Casper Ruud had won their singles matches against Viktor Durasovic and Dusan Lajovic with relative ease.
Earlier, Argentina pair Diego Schwartzman and Federico Delbonis barely raised a sweat while Spain cruised despite the absence of Rafael Nadal.
The Argentinian pair both won their matches 6-1 6-2 against Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili and Aleksandre Metreveli respectively at Qudos Bank Arena, Schwartzman particularly impressive in his disposal of the world No.22.
Their doubles pair then secured a clean sweep, also winning 6-1 6-2.
Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta fought from breaks down in both sets to defeat plucky Chilean Alejandro Tabilo 6-4 7-6 (7-4).
Roberto Batista Agut was more clinical, trouncing Chile's world No.17 Cristian Garin 6-0 6-3 to render the doubles a dead rubber.
The pair showed they would still be a force in the team event without Nadal, who has arrived in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open after a preparation disrupted by a positive COVID-19 case.
The third edition of the $10 million ATP Cup has 16 teams divided into four groups playing at two venues at Sydney's Olympic Park.
Russia, headed by world No.2 Daniil Medvedev, are defending champions and will begin their tournament against France on Sunday.
Both those countries are in the same group as hosts Australia, who face the stacked Italy outfit on Sunday night.