Daniil Medvedev was supposed to breeze past Ugo Humbert on Day Two of the ATP Cup but someone forgot to give the Frenchman the script.
Daniil Medvedev’s hopes of avenging last year’s Australian Open heartbreak hit a snag on Day Two of the ATP Cup when he was ambushed in a three-set thriller by a man who wasn’t even on the draw last week.
After the withdrawal of Novak Djokovic, World No. 2 Medvedev loomed as the biggest star to be gracing the Sydney tournament this year, but in his first match, he was brought crashing back to earth by French World No. 35 Ugo Humbert, 7-6, 5-7, 6-7.
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It took Austria dropping out of the ATP Cup in the days before the new year for France to be included in the tournament and as the top-seeded member of the team, Humbert faced the almighty task of battling it out with the second-best men’s player in the world.
He might’ve beaten Medvedev in the pair’s only other previous meeting but not many gave the 23-year-old a chance this time around, especially given Medvedev led Russia to victory in the 2021 ATP Cup and went 10-0 in team events overall last year.
Humbert lost the first set in a tie-breaker but clawed his way back from three games down in the second to take his highly-fancied rival to a third set.
There was no less tension in the final set, which also went to a tie-break.
Mustering whatever strength he had left after almost three hours of play, Humbert did the unthinkable and polished off the 2021 US Open champion 7-2 in the tie-break to send shockwaves through the tennis community.
It was the biggest win of the Frenchman’s professional career to date.
In the first of the earlier match-ups, Russia’s Roman Safiullin (World No. 167) caused a major upset of his own by defeating Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech (No. 58) from a set down.
Medvedev’s loss consigned Russia to a decisive doubles match against the French, but the World No. 2 combined with Safiullin to avoid what would have been a staggering best of three upset.
Russia defeated France 6-4, 6-4 to claim outright victory 2-1.
Australia’s ATP Cup campaign got off to a shaky start before the first ball was even served with news that James Duckworth had been ruled out of his first match of the tournament.
Despite his hot form at the time, Duckworth missed out on representing his country at last year’s Davis Cup and in another blow to the Sydney native, he has now been sidelined with hip soreness.
The injury made Australia’s assignment on Day Two of the tournament even more challenging than it already was.
Australia’s Max Purcell, ranked Number 176, took Duckworth’s place in the match against World No. 10 Jannik Sinner.
Sinner plowed through Purcell in the first set, but with the crowd firmly on his side, the Aussie staged an unlikely fightback in the second.
Ultimately, Sinner was able to compose himself and pull away once Purcell came within one set of him, winning in straight sets 6-1, 6-3.
Purcell’s loss leaves Alex de Minaur (World No. 34) with all the work to do when he faces 2021 Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini in the second match of the evening.
North American showdown
Two traditional rivals went head-to-head at the ATP Cup on Sunday but a hilarious moment before the second of Canada’s clashes with the USA certainly helped break the tension.
Just hours before play began, Canadian left-hander Denis Shapovalov withdrew from his team’s first singles match of the day, citing fatigue following his time in isolation with Covid-19.
The World No. 14 tested positive on arrival in Sydney and while he has since been released from biosecurity protocols, opted to sit the match out.
“I’m disappointed not to be able to play the first match, but I just didn’t feel ready physically yet, so we did what is best for the team,” he said.
The 11th hour withdrawal pushed World No. 238 Brayden Schnur into the limelight, where American World No. 24 John Isner took just over an hour to steamroll him in straight sets.
The second clash, contested by World No. 11 Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime and America’s Taylor Fritz (No. 23) got off to an inauspicious start.
As is customary, the pair posed either side of the net for a picture before the match.
However, no photographer turned up to capture the top-seeded players from the rival nations, leaving the players smiling into the abyss.
“There’s no photographer, you can leave,” said a match official, realising the error.
The players then dispersed for what began as a tightly-fought contest.
Fritz ultimately defeated his opponent to ensure the USA would clinch victory over Canada with a match in hand.
As the Aussies grappled with Italy at Ken Rosewall Arena, The United Kingdom and Germany jousted up the road at Qudos Bank Arena.
The British claimed the first match comfortably, with Daniel Evans (World No. 25) holding Jan-Lennard Struff (No. 51) at arm’s length for the entirety of the 6-1, 6-2 thrashing.
All eyes turned to the big ticket battle between Germany’s Alexander Zverev (World No. 3) and Cameron Norries (No. 12) afterwards.