A year of Russian triumphs, from beginning to end
Daniil Medvedev told a story on Saturday about a practice session he had with a former player in Cincinnati. He wouldn’t say who when he was younger and around 50 in the world.
I was just arriving. He asked how old I am, how old is (Andrey) Rublev and Karen (Khachanov). He looked at his coach and said, How many Davis Cup do you think these guys are going to win? remembers Medvedev.
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It was not easy. After his words, we lost quite a few matches. We lost to Hungary to be in the World Group next game, Austria. It wasn’t easy to break this Davis Cup.
After struggling through difficult three-setters in his first three matches in singles, Rublev found his groove in the semi-final against Germany and picked up where he left off in the final against Croatia on Sunday, beating a stubborn Borna Gojo who lost its first game of the tournament to give Russia the title-decider’s opening point.
Medvedev survived a tight first set against 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, but went through the second smoothly to secure Russia’s first Davis Cup triumph since 2006.
The last time Russia won the Davis Cup, Medvedev and Khachanov were 10 years old and Rublev nine.
Highlights: Rublev gives Russia advantage in Davis Cup final with narrow win over Gojo
Both Rublev and Khachanov stood in the stands at the Moscow Olympic Stadium 15 years ago as they watched Nikolay Davydenko and Marat Safin lead Russia to a 3-2 victory over Argentina in the Davis Cup final.
Those young fans have grown into what will become a golden generation for Russian tennis, with two of them currently ranked in the top five after an unforgettable 2021 campaign.
The Russians finished the season by winning the ATP Cup in Australia at the beginning of the year and taking home the Davis Cup trophy at the end of the year.
In between, Khachanov won Olympic silver in singles, Rublev and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won Olympic gold in mixed doubles, while Aslan Karatsev took mixed silver alongside Elena Vesnina. Medvedev took his first Grand Slam title at the US Open and the Russian ladies won the Billie Jean King Cup.
Team competition is always special, Rublev said.
Here at the Davis Cup or Olympics, we normally don’t have a lot of time to spend these kinds of competitions together, we have to be together almost every day, eat together, have breakfast together, spend time together. This is something special that we miss that we don’t really have time for (the rest of the year). Events like this give us this opportunity.
It’s a great feeling, because then you have a lot of memories. This is the most important.
It won’t be long before the Russians reunite with the 2022 ATP Cup, which kicks off Down Under in less than four weeks. Again, it will be difficult to bet against them.
More change on the horizon
The ITF and Kosmos announced on Sunday that next year’s Davis Cup final will be held in four cities in the round-robin stage, before players move to a neutral fifth venue, believed to be Abu Dhabi for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. .
Only 16 teams will participate, instead of 18, with one team in each of the four groups guaranteed to play their round-robin stage at home.
There was mixed reaction to the idea that Abu Dhabi would host the knockout stage, but Croatian veteran Marin Cilic offered an interesting take on why traveling to the Middle East next year could benefit the tournament.
A large part of that will be the World Cup in Doha. Perhaps also a nice invitation for football fans to watch tennis, Cilic said on Sunday.
Medvedev is not opposed to the ITF and Kosmos’ plans for the future of the competition, but admits that the timing of the event remains problematic at the end of a long and taxing tennis season.
I really like the idea itself. Of course, the calendar doesn’t allow Davis Cup to take place in any other week, so that’s where it’s tough, said the world’s No. 2.
That’s where some top players aren’t going to play because it’s the end of the season, someone is burned out, someone is injured, someone wants to prepare well for Australia, so it’s not easy.
In general, the idea of having four cities in Europe is, of course, trying to get the best countries playing there for their own audiences, and coming together in Abu Dhabi, where I heard [there are] great stadiums and great facilities, love this idea.
Again, it will be difficult for any player, especially those in the Masters (ATP Finals in Turin), to face the season.
Double fun for the champions
Russia not only won the Davis Cup on Sunday, but also received the Rakuten Optimism Award for most inspiring team.
According to the organizers, the trophy was presented to the team that has shown empowerment and innovation, integrity, professionalism, dedication and teamwork throughout the competition.
Sounds like five prizes in one, which the Russians certainly deserve.
Star-studded crowd turns up in Madrid
Star football and tennis players, past and present, have been spotted in the stands in the Madrid Arena in recent days.
Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric showed his support for his fellow Croats, while Luis Figo, Fernando Hierro, Paula Badosa and David Ferrer also appeared.
After struggling to attract constant crowds in Madrid two years ago, the Davis Cup final proved to be a hit in both Turin and the Spanish capital for the past 11 days.
Kosmos CEO Enric Rojas said they flew 150 fans from Croatia to Madrid on a chartered plane to attend the final on Sunday.
We will have our entire team working all year round to make sure the fans can go there and to have the environment we want in the arenas, Rojas said of their plans for next year’s edition.
Statistics of the day
- Medvedev won all 10 sets he contested in the Davis Cup Finals, progressing through all five of his singles matches in straights.
- Rublev now has a career of 20 Davis Cup wins, just one behind Mikhail Youzhny, who is third on the list of most wins in the competition by a Russian player.
- After leading his team to the trophy in 2002 and 2006, Russian Shamil Tarpischev is the fifth captain to have won at least three Davis Cup titles since 1972, alongside Neale Fraser, Niki Pilic, Yannick Noah and Hans Olsson.
- Russia has now equaled the Czech Republic and Germany in seventh place on the all-time list for most Davis Cup titles won.
- Russia is only the fourth country to win both the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup in the same year, and the first since the Czech Republic in 2012.
Highlights: Rublev gives Russia advantage in Davis Cup final with narrow win over Gojo
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