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After Being Unstoppable for Russia at ATP Cup, Medvedev and Rublev are on a Roll in Melbourne Tennis


Team Russia players Daniil Medvedev (L) and Andrey Rublev (R) hold the trophy after winning the ATP Cup final against Team Italy on Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, 07 February 2021. EPA-EFE/DEAN LEWINS

By Ricky Dimon

Serbia and Spain may be dominating the recent Grand Slam men’s singles title count because they each have an all-time great playing under their flags.

But the best two-headed monster in the game right now belongs to Russia. And it isn’t even close.

We just saw what happened at last week’s ATP Cup, where Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev led their country to the title by going a combined 8-0 in singles. Both men went 4-0 individually and 8-1 in total sets. Picking right where they left off at Melbourne Park, Medvedev dominated his Australian Open first-round match against Vasek Pospisil 6-2, 6-2, 6-4; Rublev rolled over Yannick Hanfmann 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

“Because of the ATP Cup I adapted to the (Australian Open) courts really fast, so I’m already here feeling good,” Rublev stated.

That is bad news for the rest of the field.

Rublev was the solo leader in ATP titles last season, lifting five trophies–including three of the 500-point variety. He reached the quarterfinals of both the U.S. Open and French Open, the latter despite having no time off in between Hamburg (where he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final) and Roland Garros.

If Rublev makes another quarterfinal run this fortnight, he can expect to see Medvedev–again–on the other side of the net. They also faced each other in the U.S. Open quarters, won by the considerably-favored Medvedev in straight sets.

“If the level is going to be the same (as in the ATP Cup),” said Russia captain Evgeny Donskoy, “these guys are going to see each other in the quarterfinals.”

Medvedev, of course, has far loftier expectations. He is a Grand Slam runner-up (lost to Rafael Nadal in a five-set thriller at the 2019 U.S. Open) and made it back to the semis at Flushing Meadows this past fall. Now he looks poised for the same kind of breakthrough that Dominic Thiem accomplished in New York last year. Medvedev is currently on a 15-match winning streak that includes the Paris Masters title and the Nitto ATP Finals title prior to four ATP Cup victories and Tuesday’s demolition of Pospisil.

Even more amazing is the fact that Medvedev is a hard-to-believe 10-0 in his last 10 matches against top-10 opponents.

“I just try to win matches,” the world No. 4 said when asked if he feels like the Australian Open favorite. “I get asked this question a lot, so if people consider me as a favorite, it’s actually a good job because I worked all my life to be one of the, let’s say, top players in the world, so I’m happy that I’m part of them right now. But you know, you need to win seven matches. I just won one, so I need to win six more against very strong opponents, all of them, out of five sets…how many sets is it? That’s 18 sets more you need to win, which is a lot.

“But I’m feeling confident. Winning almost everything in straight sets is important, so I’m feeling confident about myself. I know that I can do well, but a Grand Slam is not an easy thing.”

Both Medvedev and Rublev are sure making things look easy right now. If things get tougher later in the Aussie Open, it may only be due to the fact that they have to play each other.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.