Updated2/7/2021 12:52:00 AM
Daniil Medvedev finished 2020 hotter than anyone on the ATP Tour, so it is only fitting that he began 2021 by clinching the ATP Cup title for Russia on Sunday. The World No. 4 defeated Italian Matteo Berrettini 6-4, 6-2 to cap a near-perfect singles performance by his country shortly after Andrey Rublev overpowered Fabio Fognini 6-1, 6-2 in the No. 2 singles match.
Russia’s two-headed monster of Medvedev and Rublev dominated throughout the week, winning all eight singles matches they played against some of the best players in the world. They combined to lose just two sets to lead their country to glory at Melbourne Park.
“I want to thank my team. Andrey won all of his matches,” Medvedev said during the trophy ceremony. “Thank you for being with me here and lifting this trophy in a few moments.”
Medvedev faced a stern test in the tie’s No. 1 singles match against Berrettini, who did not lose a set against three of the top 13 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings to push his country to the final. But the Russian passed with flying colours. The World No. 4 was too solid for the Italian and he triumphed after one hour and 20 minutes. Medvedev is known for showing no emotion after winning big matches, but on this occasion he cracked a smile as he gestured towards Russia's Team Zone.
Medvedev has won a personal-best 14 consecutive matches dating back to the start of last year's Rolex Paris Masters, with 10 of those triumphs coming against Top 10 opponents. The 24-year-old won the title in Paris-Bercy and then lifted the biggest trophy of his career at the Nitto ATP Finals to finish 2020.
"It's a really big achievement because I also didn't lose a match. Yeah, 10 matches against Top 10 opponents, didn't lose a match in these 10 matches. It's a big boost in confidence," Medvedev said. "Even when you lose, you know that you're capable of playing this level, and it helps you for the next time to stand up."
Medvedev has maintained his momentum — and added to it — with his effort at the ATP Cup, where he led Russia to the semi-finals last year. The 2019 US Open finalist is now arguably the second favourite at the Australian Open behind eight-time champion Novak Djokovic.
Throughout the tournament, Berrettini powered his way past every opponent in front of him — including World No. 3 Dominic Thiem — using his forehand to push them back before throwing in drop shots and net charges when necessary. But Medvedev pinned the Italian deep in his backhand corner, and the World No. 10 never found a solution to get out of that pattern.
Throughout the match, Italian captain Vincenzo Santopadre provided urgent instructions for his charge during changeovers to try to change the rhythm of the action. On the other side of the court, Russian captain Evgeny Donskoy and Medvedev’s personal coach, Gilles Cervara, mostly let their player relax knowing he was in control.
“It’s such an honour to be part of this team. Thanks for inviting me to be captain,” Donskoy said. “It’s not tough to be captain of such a strong team, because they are very easy people. Thanks to you guys, you are playing amazing.”
Berrettini unleashed some big forehands during the match, showing how dangerous that shot is. But Medvedev often went to the Italian’s stronger wing on his terms, forcing the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals competitor to go for more aggressive shots from tough positions, which backfired on several occasions.
The Italian was mostly successful with his drop shot at this event, but even that proved unsuccessful against the Russian. Medvedev went up a double-break in the second set by tracking down a drop volley and delivering a body blow to win the point. The nine-time ATP Tour titlist broke the Italian's serve three times and did not drop his own serve.
Team Italy did not advance out of the group stage last year, when they also lost against Russia. Berrettini did not compete in the inaugural edition due to a hernia, but with the 24-year-old at No. 1 singles, Italy proved a forced to be reckoned with this year, despite falling short in the final.
"Congrats to my team. It was the first time for the ATP Cup, for me at least," Berrettini said. "I had an unbelievable week. We had a lot of fun, great tennis."