SYDNEY: World No 11 David Goffin said he was “very motivated” after getting his season off to a winning start Friday at the ATP Cup in Sydney, which was marred by a national anthem gaffe by organisers.
Belgium’s top player led his team to a 3-0 clean sweep over Group C rivals Moldova at the inaugural 24-nation event that is also being played in Brisbane and Perth.
Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov narrowly avoided being beaten by Britain’s Dan Evans in the same group, with the former world No 3 rallying from a set down to win 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Goffin cruised past an error-laden Radu Albot 6-4, 6-1, rarely threatened by the world No 46 who broke new ground in 2019 by becoming his country’s first ATP Tour title winner at Delray Beach.
“I was very good intensity, good energy, good attitude. That made the difference,” said Goffin, who made two ATP Tour finals last year at Halle and Cincinnati.
“I’m very motivated, happy to start the year with new ambitions, so maybe that’s why today was a very good match.”
“It’s never easy to start the season with the first match, first team competition, the new format, with the team on the bench. And the way I played, I’m very pleased and so it’s good for the next tie.”
The ATP Cup, which allows on-court coaching, has 24 nations split into six groups across the three cities, with eight teams emerging from the round-robin to compete in a knockout phase in Sydney until one country is left standing.
Under the format, the second-ranked singles players from each team face each other first before the top players take to the court, followed by a doubles.
Belgium’s Steve Darcis earlier scrapped past Alexander Cozbinov 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 7-5 to hand his country a perfect start, with the match marred by the Romanian anthem being played beforehand instead of Moldova.
“We are sincerely sorry and have apologised personally to Team Moldova,” the ATP said.
Cozbinov, ranked 818 and who had never played an ATP Tour match before, insisted it was “not a big deal”.
“But it wasn’t that hard to pick the right anthem,” he told AFP.
“Moldova and Romania have the same flag so probably that’s why they made a mistake. Hopefully next time it’s going to be the right one.”
The Tim Henman-skippered Britain looked on track for a comfortable time against Bulgaria after Cameron Norrie, who broke into the top 50 last year, fought past Dimitar Kuzmanov in three sets then Dan Evans raced to a one set lead over Dimitrov in the second singles.
But Dimitrov, whose ranking slumped last year as he struggled with a shoulder injury, never gave up and finally found his groove to grind down his opponent and take the hard-fought win.