It was clear Russia, as the only country with two Top 10 singles players, would be dangerous at this year’s ATP Cup. Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev have more than lived up to those expectations.
They have become a two-headed monster in Melbourne.
There are 12 countries in the field, and only Russia has not lost a set in singles. They haven’t come particularly close to doing so, either. Before the event, Russian captain Evgeny Donskoy said, “With these guys, it’s pretty easy to be a captain.”
Boy was Donskoy right. Medvedev has earned nine service breaks in his two matches against elite opponents in World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman and former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori. Rublev has picked up where he left off in 2020, when he won an ATP Tour-leading five titles. The big-hitting righty has lost a combined seven games in four sets against Guido Pella and Yoshihito Nishioka.
“We are really happy with our performance. I think Daniil as well, he beat two great players, one of them Top 10, one of them is a legend,” Rublev said. “I played two good matches, I showed a good level. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”
At the end of 2020, Medvedev and Rublev were among the hottest players on the ATP Tour, and both competed at the Nitto ATP Finals in London, where Medvedev lifted the trophy. But entering the ATP Cup, they did not carry any bravado.
Usually you’d expect to see a two-headed monster coming, but not with these two. Medvedev and Rublev are unassuming and amicable off the court. They are both lean, and not physically intimidating. But on court, they are deadly opponents — call them fire and ice. Rublev burns you with his surprising, jaw-dropping power, and Medvedev is a master of using his game to trip up opponents. Neither man is quick to toot his own horn, either.
“In my case, I don’t expect nothing. I just hope we’re going to do our best,” Rublev said before play began. “In the end, what’s going to happen is going to happen.”
To put it simply, the Russians have been too good for their competition. Take Wednesday’s tie against Japan, for example. Nishikori and Nishioka are both solid baseliners, capable of making the best players in the world play well to beat them. That’s exactly what Medvedev and Rublev did, according to Japanese captain Max Mirnyi.
“Both Daniil and Andrey played a very high level of tennis,” Mirnyi said. “Throughout the whole match, I felt that we had a few chances in both matches, but yet again, they came up with the solution and closed us off.”
Russia’s only hiccups have come in doubles, but those matches were not vital because Medvedev and Rublev had already earned singles wins. After Donskoy and Aslan Karatsev lost a Match Tie-break against Japan on Wednesday, Donskoy did not seem too concerned about his country’s hopes. He knows he has a two-headed monster in his corner.
“Fortunately three guys on our team are unbelievable players and they can achieve any goals here in this tournament,” Donskoy said. “I’m looking forward to these guys playing on Friday and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”