Novak Djokovic had an almost full house on his side at Ken Rosewell Arena, and felt like he needed to be a responsible host for his guests.
There was a delay late in the third set of his ATP Cup quarterfinal match against Denis Shapovalov on Friday when a spectator needed medical attention from paramedics and Djokovic, despite being down 0-30 while serving for the match, took a bottle of water over toward the stadium seating and asked the crowd to pass it along.
He got back level at 30-30 in that game before Shapovalov broke to level the set at 5-5. The Canadian saved a breakpoint in the next game but after the match went to a tiebreaker following 2 1/2 hours, Djokovic seized control by winning the first five points and then finished off a comeback 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4).
Dusan Lajovic had earlier beaten Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 6-2 and so Djokovic's win sealed the quarterfinal ahead of the doubles match, giving Serbia a spot in the semifinals against Russia. Serbia won the doubles to complete a 3-0 sweep.
“That was so close, it could have gone in a different way easily. (Shapovalov) was playing terrific tennis,” Djokovic said. “It felt, not a little bit, fully like I'm playing at home.”
Djokovic, who has won a record seven Australian Open men's singles titles, was playing in Sydney for the first time in a decade after going 3-0 in singles in the ATP Cup group stage in Brisbane.
“I'm mean, Brisbane we had amazing support — but this has taken it to a different level,” Djokovic said. "All the Serbian people came out today.
“They were engaged sometimes a little bit too much, and Denis was rightfully annoyed at times, you know, with the sounds, but it was a Davis Cup-like atmosphere, really. I mean, ATP Cup brings this kind of opportunity for players to experience something they don't experience in 90% of the tournaments.”
The temperature topped topped 33 Celsius (91 F) during the match, and it was hazy outside with a lack of breeze, making the conditions inside the arena stifling.
Djokovic endured it all to extend his record to 5-0 against Shapovalov. The constant chants and even a burst of trumpet from the flag-waving Serbian fans certainly helped him, he said. The 16-time major winner reveled in the team environment, with his teammates and coaches on the side of the court, and the echo of “Nole, Nole, Nole” going around the stadium.
Shapovalov complained about the noise made as he served a double-fault to fall behind 4-0 in the tiebreaker, and the umpire asked the crowd to keep quiet during the service motion.
He was agitated during the match but didn't complain later, saying he was getting more comfortable taking on Djokovic and the other top players.
“With my confidence right now, with my game, I really feel that I can take it to anyone, and I feel like against anyone I have a chance to win,”he said. “Today again, it's another step for me, showing me that I'm right there with these guys. Honestly, I was a couple points away from taking the match. So, yeah, I think I'm at a really good position."
Russia captain Marat Safin said his team would benefit from the extra day of rest and could win both singles matches against Serbia on Saturday, and have the semifinal wrapped up before the doubles.
Australia awaits in the semifinals for the winner of Friday's later match between Spain and Belgium.