Andrey Rublev was relentless on Sunday at Melbourne Park, powering past Fabio Fognini 6-1, 6-2 to give Russia a 1-0 lead against Italy in the ATP Cup final.
Daniil Medvedev can clinch the prestigious title for his country in the No. 1 singles match when he plays Matteo Berrettini. Neither player has lost a match at this year’s ATP Cup.
“It’s going to be a tough match. Matteo has an amazing serve, an amazing forehand,” Rublev said in his on-court interview. “I think it’s going to be a really, really interesting match. It’s going to be a huge fight. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Rublev is the highest-ranked No. 2 singles player in this competition, and the World No. 8 has shown he is more than deserving of that standing. The Russian won his four singles matches with the loss of just one set to put his country in a dominant position in every tie.
“I was playing really well all week since the first match and I was just going on court thinking that I needed to fight for every ball. I played Fabio before six times and I lost a few times really tough matches, really painful ones,” Rublev said. “I knew it didn’t matter the score, he always has a chance. He always knows how to come back, so I was trying to keep going no matter the score. In the end, I’m really happy with the way it went today and the way I played today.”
Judging by the action in this No. 2 singles match, you wouldn’t know that Fognini had won five of the pair’s six previous ATP Head2Head meetings. The 33-year-old had been especially dominant on hard courts in their rivalry, winning all three of their clashes on the surface in straight sets.
But Rublev dominated with his forehand from the outset to triumph after 61 minutes. Fognini battled hard for his country, with the Italian Team Zone urging him on. Berrettini even stayed until late in the second set to support his countryman, but it was to not avail.
The Russian set the tone in his first return game by going after his returns to put Fognini on the back foot. The Italian dropped his first service game by wildly misfiring on a forehand, and he was never able to gain a foothold in the match after that.
Early in the second set Fognini tried to mix up the pace of his shots on return, even throwing in a couple of loopy shots to try to disturb Rublev’s rhythm. But the Russian machine was locked in and showed no signs of breaking down.
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Rublev used his serve to great effect, losing just seven service points in the match. He pounced on every ball that sat up or landed short to immediately pressure his opponent.
Rublev has picked up right where he left off in his breakthrough 2020 season. The 23-year-old has won an ATP Tour-leading 45 matches since the start of last year.
“I was trying to work every day as hard as I can and that’s it. In the end little bit little by little I was improving… it’s a long process,” Rublev said. “You don’t improve in one day, it takes years. So in the end, [this] was my journey.”
Did You Know?
One year ago, Russia beat Italy 3-0 at the ATP Cup. However, Berrettini did not compete in the event because of a hernia.