A year of Russian triumphs, from start to finish

Daniil Medvedev told a story on Saturday of a practice session he had with a former player in Cincinnati – he wouldn’t say who – when he was younger and ranked around 50 in the world.
“I was just up-and-coming. 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 you think these guys are going to win?” recalled 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, Austria the next match. It was not easy to break this Davis Cup.”
It may have taken some time but Medvedev and Co. have clinched their first Davis Cup trophy together, and we’d have to agree with that mystery practice partner and assume it’s only the first of many.
After struggling through tough three-setters in his first three singles matches, Rublev found his groove in the semi-finals against Germany and picked up right where he left off in the final against Croatia on Sunday, overcoming a stubborn Borna Gojo – who lost his first match of the tournament – to give Russia the opening point of the title decider.
Medvedev survived a tight first set against 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic but eased through the second to secure Russia’s first Davis Cup triumph since 2006.
The last time Russia had won the Davis Cup, Medvedev and Khachanov were 10 years old and Rublev was nine.

Highlights: Rublev gives Russia advantage in Davis Cup final with tight win over Gojo

Both Rublev and Khachanov were in the stands at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow 15 years ago as they watched Nikolay Davydenko and Marat Safin guide Russia to a 3-2 victory over Argentina in the Davis Cup final.
Those young fans have grown to form what’s shaping up to be a golden generation for Russian tennis, with two of them currently ranked in the top five, on the back of an unforgettable 2021 campaign.
The Russians bookended the season by winning the ATP Cup in Australia at the start of the year and lifting the Davis Cup trophy at the closing of it.
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 pocketed his first Grand Slam title at the US Open and the Russian ladies won the Billie Jean King Cup.
“Team competition is always special,” said Rublev.
“Here at the Davis Cup or Olympic Games – normally we don't have much time to spend together – these kind of competitions, we have to be together almost every day, eat together, have breakfast together, spend time together. This is something special that we are missing that we don't really have time to do (during rest of the year). These kind of events, they give us this chance.
“It's a great feeling because then you have a lot of memories. This is the most important thing.”
It won’t be too long before the Russians reunite with the 2022 ATP Cup kicking off in less than four weeks’ time Down Under. Once again, it’ll be hard to bet against them.

More change on the horizon

The ITF and Kosmos announced on Sunday that next year’s Davis Cup Finals will be held across 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 be playing their round-robin phase at home.
There has been mixed reaction towards the idea of Abu Dhabi hosting the knockout stages, but Croatian veteran Marin Cilic came up with an interesting opinion on why heading to the Middle East next year might be advantageous to the tournament.
“A great part to it is going to be the World Cup in Doha. Might be a great invitation also for the 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 the timing of the event at the end of a long and taxing tennis season remains problematic.
“I think the idea itself is very good. Of course, the calendar doesn't let Davis Cup be in any other week, so that's where it's tough,” said the world No 2.
“That's where some top players are not going to play because it's the end of the season, somebody's burned out, somebody's injured, somebody wants to prepare well for Australia, so that's not easy.
“In general, the idea of having four cities in Europe, trying to get of course the best countries to play there in front of their home crowd, and gather together in Abu Dhabi, where I heard [there are] amazing stadiums and amazing facilities, I like this idea.
“Again, it's going to be tough for any player, especially who is in the Masters (ATP Finals in Turin), to be able to cope with the season.”

Double delight for the champions

Russia didn’t just win the Davis Cup on Sunday, they also received the Rakuten Optimism Award for Most Inspiring Team.
According to the organisers, the trophy was given to the squad that showed empowerment and innovation, integrity, professionalism, commitment and teamwork throughout the competition.
Sounds like five awards in one, which the Russians certainly deserve.

Star-studded audience turns up in Madrid

Star footballers and tennis players, past and present, were spotted in the stands the last few days at Madrid Arena.
Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric showed his support for his fellow Croatians, while Luis Figo, Fernando Hierro, Paula Badosa and David Ferrer also made appearances.
After struggling to attract crowds consistently in Madrid two years ago, the Davis Cup Finals proved to be a hit in both Turin and the Spanish capital these past 11 days.
Enric Rojas, CEO of Kosmos, said they flew in 150 fans from Croatia to Madrid on a chartered plane to attend the final on Sunday.
“We will have all our team working the full year to make sure that the fans are going to be able to go there and to have the environment we want to have in the arenas,” Rojas said of their plans for next year’s edition.

Stats of the day

  • Medvedev won all 10 sets he contested during the Davis Cup Finals, cruising through all five of his singles matches in straights.
  • Rublev now owns a career 20 Davis Cup match-wins – just one behind Mikhail Youzhny who is third on the list of most victories recorded in the competition by a Russian player.
  • Having already led his team to the trophy in 2002 and 2006, Russia’s Shamil Tarpischev has become the fifth captain to win at least three Davis Cup titles since 1972, joining Neale Fraser, Niki Pilic, Yannick Noah and Hans Olsson.
  • Russia have now equalled Czech Republic and Germany in seventh place on the all-time list for most Davis Cup titles won.
  • Russia are just the fourth nation to win both the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup in the same year, and the first since Czech Republic in 2012.

Highlights: Rublev gives Russia advantage in Davis Cup final with tight win over Gojo

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