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Djokovic overcomes humidity to inspire Serbia

Double duty: Novak Djokovic celebrates
Double duty: Novak Djokovic celebrates

By Steve Simpson

A near-perfect Novak Djokovic won both his singles and doubles rubbers as Serbia beat France 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals of the inaugural ATP Cup in Brisbane yesterday.

After Benoit Paire beat Dusan Lajovic to give France a 1-0 lead, Djokovic overpowered Gael Monfils in straight sets and then teamed with Viktor Troicki to defeat Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-3 6-6 (5-7) 10-3 in a spirited and emotional doubles clash.

The win, combined with South Africa's defeat of Chile, means Serbia are assured of topping Group A with one round to go.

Djokovic was in superb touch to level the tie following Lajovic's three-set loss to Paire in the opening rubber.

He had beaten Monfils in all 15 previous meetings and that perfect record never looked in danger.

Djokovic, one of the best returners in tennis, put relentless pressure on Monfils' serve, breaking him three times.

Djokovic said both he and Monfils had been affected by the humidity on Pat Rafter Arena.

"It was definitely some of the most humid conditions I've ever had in my career. Tonight was brutal," he said.

As the Frenchman began to show the effects of the humidity, Djokovic stepped up the pressure and eased to victory in 90 minutes.

In the early tie, former World No.5 Kevin Anderson showed he was on his way back after an injury-ruined 2019 when he thrashed Chile's Cristian Garin 6-0 6-3.

Anderson's win clinched the tie for South Africa following Lloyd Harris' 6-4 6-4 victory over Nicolas Jarry.

Meanwhile, British No.1 Johanna Konta is out of the Brisbane International after losing in three sets to Barbora Strycova in the first round.

World No.12 Konta, who has been battling a knee injury, forced a decider after Strycova dominated the opener - but the Czech won 6-2 3-6 6-3.

Konta has not beaten Strycova, ranked 31st, in three attempts, last losing in their 2019 Wimbledon quarter-final.

In the first round of the ASB Classic in Auckland, 15-year-old Coco Gauff triumphed 6-3 6-1 against Viktoria Kuzmova.

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