ATP CUP PERTH DAY 6
Serbian spearhead Novak Djokovic will enter the ATP Cup quarter-finals in hot form, but world No.1 Rafael Nadal needs to shake off some rust if Spain are to live up to their pre-tournament favouritism.
Nadal was made to work for his 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 win over world No.72 Yoshihito Nishioka in Perth, committing 36 unforced errors along the way.
The hard-fought win wrapped up the tie for Spain and secured their spot in the last eight after world No.10 Roberto Bautista Agut beat Japan's Go Soeda 6-2 6-4 earlier in the day.
Nadal and Pablo Carreno Busta then teamed up to break Japanese hearts with a third-set super-tiebreaker win over Ben McLachlan and Go Soeda to eliminate the Asians from the tournament.
Nadal won all three of his singles matches in straight sets during the group stage, but he has lacked his usual ruthless edge and accuracy at times.
The 19-times grand slam champion led Spain to Davis Cup glory in November, and he's keen to add the ATP Cup crown to his bulging trophy cabinet.
"I always enjoy sharing important moments with friends, and we had a lot of success during our entire careers playing for our country in Davis Cup," Nadal said.
"So for us it's a good start, to be able to be qualified for Sydney already. It's an important achievement for us.
"The conditions will be different, and a three-hour time (difference).
"There's a lot of things we need to adjust to, and the period of time to make it happen is very short."
Serbia were already assured of a spot in the last eight heading into their final tie, and Djokovic added an exclamation point with a 6-3 6-3 win over Chilean Christian Garin.
Dusan Lajovic had given Serbia a 1-0 lead in the tie with a 6-2 7-6 (7-3) win over Nicolas Jarry earlier on Wednesday.
Spain, Serbia, Australia and Russia all enter the knockout stages unbeaten.
Australia face Great Britain in Thursday's opening quarter-final at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre, before Russia take on Croatia, who progressed as Group E winners on Wednesday without out even hitting a ball.
Previously winless Poland's surprise victory over Austria eliminated world No.4 Dominic Thiem's line-up.
Hubert Hurkacz's thrilling 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-5) victory over Thiem sealed Austria's fate after Kacper Zuk beat Dennis Novak 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 in the opening rubber in Sydney.
The remaining two quarter-finalists will be decided later on Wednesday night, with four nations still in the running.
Two of those quarter-finalists will be the best two pool runners-up.
South Africa and France were clashing in Brisbane with both teams needing a 3-0 triumph to progress.
Belgium and Canada, both with 2-1 round-robin records, were in the box seat to move through.