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Ricky’s Tennis Preview and Picks for the Davis Cup Final Between Russia and Croatia

Andrey Rublev of Russia. EPA-EFE/JUANJO MARTIN.

By Ricky Dimon

The 2021 Davis Cup all comes down to Russia and Croatia on Sunday in Madrid. Russia is favored to clinch the title by sweeping the singles matches, but the pressure is on because Croatia likely has the edge in doubles.

(RUS) Andrey Rublev vs. (CRO) Borna Gojo

Rublev did just enough to help Russia win Group A in the Davis Cup Finals round-robin competition and eventually reach the semis. The world No. 5 needed three sets (including a third-set tiebreaker against Mikael Ymer) in each of his two singles wins while making up for a bad loss to Feliciano Lopez by winning the doubles rubber against Spain with Aslan Karatsev. Despite a prolonged slump relative to his lofty standards, Rublev may have turned things around just in time for Sunday’s final. The 24-year-old picked up the pace to destroy Germany’s Dominik Koepfer 6-4, 6-0 in a mere 49 minutes during Russia’s semifinal sweep on Saturday.

Surprisingly — considering that Gojo is basically unknown on the main tour — this will be the second meeting between these two players. They also faced each other in 2019 Davis Cup action, when Rublev rolled 6-3, 6-3. Gojo has quite simply been the story of this year’s event so far. The 23-year-old Croat upset Alexei Popyrin of Australia and Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego in the group stage and then defeated Dusan Lajovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the semis. Still, Rublev represents a steep step up in competition and the Russian’s performance on Saturday should give him a huge boost for the final.

Pick: Rublev in 2

(RUS) Daniil Medvedev vs. (CRO) Marin Cilic

Medvedev and Cilic will be squaring off for the third time in their careers on Sunday. Although Cilic has lost both of their previous encounters, he will likely take confidence from having been competitive each time. The 33-year-old fell 6-4, 7-6(7) at the 2019 Washington, D.C. tournament before pushing Medvedev to five sets this summer at Wimbledon in a 6-7(3), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 setback.

Daniil Medvedev of Russia. EPA-EFE/JUANJO MARTIN

Occupying the No. 1 singles in Davis Cup is a big challenge — at least for anyone other than Medvedev and Novak Djokovic. Cilic beat Alex de Minaur of Australia and Zsombor Piros of Hungary both in three sets but then lost to Jannik Sinner from a set and a break up in the quarterfinals and to Djokovic 6-4, 6-2 in the semis. Medvedev is undefeated and did not drop a single set in victories over Emilio Gomez (Ecuador), Pablo Carreno Busta (Spain), Mikael Ymer (Sweden), and Jan-Lennard Struff (Germany). There is no reason to think that anything will be different for the world No. 2 in the final.

Pick: Medvedev in 2

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