Seven-time champion Novak Djokovic has fired a chilling warning to his Australian Open challengers with an emphatic win over Rafael Nadal to lead Serbia to ATP Cup glory.
Making a mockery of the greatest and most enduring rivalry in open-era tennis, Djokovic smothered Nadal in straight sets for the ninth-straight time on a hard court to draw Serbia level at one rubber apiece with Spain.
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The 6-2 7-6 (7-4) domination of the pair's record-setting 55th career meeting - and first in Sydney - came after Roberto Bautista Agut also completed a flawless Cup campaign with a 7-5 6-1 win over Dusan Lajovic in Sunday night's opening singles match at Ken Rosewall Arena.
Needing to win to keep the tie alive, Djokovic continued on from where he left off in consigning Nadal to the only straight-sets grand slam final defeat of the Spaniard's glorious career last January at Melbourne Park.
The super Serb has won 19 consecutive sets on hard courts against the 19-time major champion since last losing to Nadal on the surface in the 2013 US Open final.
Dialled in from the get-go, the world No.2 broke the world No.1 in the first game of the match.
Unable to make any inroads on Djokovic's own impregnable serve, Nadal took out his frustrations on the largely pro-Serbian crowd, offering a sarcastic thumbs up after being broken for a second time to fall behind 5-2 in the opening set.
Djokovic clinched the set with three-consecutive aces and didn't concede a solitary point for four-straight service games.
When he found himself under pressure for the only time in the match, in the fifth game of the second set, Djokovic coolly fought off five break points with three baseline winners and two more aces.
Nadal scrapped for his life to stay in the contest but it was all over when Djokovic secured the tiebreaker.
"I started off the match perfectly - everything worked for me," Djokovic said.
"My serve got me out of trouble in the second set. I'm just really glad to hold my nerves again."
19 straight sets and 9 wins in a row for Novak Djokovic against Rafael Nadal on hardcourts:— Jase (@Certinfy) January 12, 2020
6-2 6-3 6-2
Only two sets Nadal has taken more than four games in. Last set and win was seven years ago.
The last time Nadal beat Djokovic or Federer on a NON-clay court was 2014.— David Avakian (@Davavaki) January 12, 2020
Djokovic has now won his last *EIGHTEEN* sets against Nadal on a hard court.— Bastien Fachan (@BastienFachan) January 12, 2020
I got called negative when I said the other day Nadal only won his titles off clay because he avoided Djokovic and Federer. Evidence is clear. He can’t compete with Federer and Djokovic no more #ATPCup— AR (@Athique57) January 12, 2020
Nadal’s record against Djokovic Post-2013 and general choking is a major reason he can’t be considered GOAT.— SerMM91 (@SerMM91) January 12, 2020
I've seen this spam post before. Look at their H2H record and also compare Djokovic's dominance on hard court compared to Nadal's ruler ship on clay against each other. I mean, Nadal can't even win a set. THAT'S EMBARRASSING.— DG SKilla (@DGSkilla23) January 12, 2020
Djokovic red-hot favourite at Australian Open
Despite Nadal being World No.1, Djokovic will head to Melbourne as red-hot favourite to land an unprecedented eighth Open crown when it gets under way on Monday week.
In the perfect preparation for the season-opening slam, Djokovic's latest success over Nadal followed earlier victories in the inaugural staging of the ATP Cup over Kevin Anderson, Gael Monfils, Christian Garin, Denis Shapovalov and 2019 US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev.
In addition he clinched the decisive doubles rubber with Victor Troicki en route to piloting Serbia to glory in the inaugural $22 million teams' event.
"It is the perfect preparation," Djokovic said.
"I didn't know what to expect from the event.
"Obviously I didn't know how deep we would go and I was hoping we would pass the group stages and see how it goes.
"But these kind of team competitions are really truly special and I'm personally over the cloud with my emotions, and hopefully I can take that positive energy and use it for Australian Open."