Russian men’s tennis stars achieve historic 15-year first
The Russian tennis federation (RTF) team has won the Davis Cup title for the first time since 2006 after beating Croatia in Sunday’s final in Madrid.
The heavily fancied Russians clinched an unassailable 2-0 lead after Daniil Medvedev defeated former US Open champion Marin Cilic in straight sets, 7-6 (9-7) 6-2, in the second singles match of the tie.
Andrey Rublev had set Russia on their way earlier in the day with a hard-fought victory in his singles match against gutsy 23-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 6-4 7-6 (7-5).
The results meant that the doubles match against Croatia was rendered irrelevant as Russia took the title home for the first time since they beat Argentina in Moscow 15 years ago.
Sunday’s final in Spain was the first time a Russian team had reached this stage of the tournament – which is the most prestigious in men’s international team tennis – since they faced off against the USA in 2007.
Russia have now won the Davis Cup three times in the tournament’s illustrious history, with their other titles coming in 2002 against France in Paris as well as their Moscow triumph in 2006.
RUSSIAN MEN’S TENNIS ON THE UP
With Medvedev and Rublev in their ranks – who are rated second and fifth in the world respectively – the Russian team were among the strong favorites heading into this year’s 18-nation Davis Cup Finals, where they were formally competing under the banner of the national tennis federation due to ongoing WADA sanctions.
Alongside Medvedev and Rublev were Karen Khachanov and Aslan Karatsev, both top-30 players who played their part in the doubles matches on the way to the title, while Evgeny Donskoy was also on the roster.
Sunday's triumph was a particularly proud moment for 73-year-old Russian captain Shamil Tarpischev, who is the longest-serving Davis Cup captain.
En route to the decisive tie of the tournament, the RTF team had beaten Ecuador and then hosts and defending champions Spain during the round-robin stage, as well as Sweden in the quarter-finals before overcoming Germany in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Croatia, the 2018 champions, had beaten Novak Djokovic’s Serbia in their semi-final but were unable to match the impressive Medvedev and Rublev in the Spanish capital.
The result capped a strong year for Russian men’s tennis as Medvedev, 25, won the US Open in September, becoming the first male star from his country to win a Grand Slam title for 16 years.
Compatriot Rublev, 24, ends the year at a career-high ranking of world number five and scooped Olympic gold in Tokyo in the mixed doubles alongside Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, where they beat compatriots Karatsev and Elena Vesnina in the final. Khachanov also claimed silver in the men's singles in Japan.
Back in February, the Russian men’s team featuring Medvedev, Rublev, Karatsev and Donskoy also won the 2021 ATP Cup in Melbourne.
RUSSIAN KINGS AND QUEENS HOLD COURT
Russia now holds the most prestigious international team titles in both men's and women's tennis, after Sunday's success in Spain followed the triumph in the Billie Jean King Cup (formerly known as the Fed Cup) by female Russian stars in November.
Women's star Pavlyuchenkova, 30, went all the way to the women’s singles final at the French Open earlier in the year, becoming the first Russian female player to reach that stage of a Grand Slam since Maria Sharapova played Serena Williams in the Australian Open final in 2015.