After four days of competition, only two countries remain in the battle to be crowned ATP Cup champion. Russia and Italy enter the championship match with undefeated 3-0 tie records, but which team will emerge with the trophy?
Described as the two-headed monster of this year’s competition, Russia will aim to extend its perfect 6-0 singles record to take the trophy in Melbourne. Russia is the only team in the tournament to feature two Top 10 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings: Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev.
Italy’s hopes of winning rest in the hands of Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini. The Italians, who both cracked the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time in 2019, own a combined 5-1 record in singles this week.
Should the two nations split the singles encounters, team captains Evgeny Donskoy and Vincenzo Santopadre will both have a big decision to make. Do they stick with their selected doubles team or bring in their singles stars? Russia may own an unbeaten 6-0 record in singles this week, but they are yet to claim a win in three doubles matches. Italy owns a 1-1 record in contested doubles matches at this year’s event.[WATCH LIVE 1]
Rublev Seeks Rare Fognini Win
In the opening match of the final, World No. 8 Andrey Rublev will attempt to continue his dominant singles run this week. Across his two Group D matches, the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals qualifier dropped a combined seven games against Guido Pella and Yoshihito Nishioka.
Despite Rublev’s red-hot form, his opponent — Fabio Fognini — will have a reason to be confident when he walks onto Rod Laver Arena. The 2019 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion owns a 5-1 ATP Head2Head record against Rublev, which includes wins in his three most recent encounters with the Russian.
Since losing his opening match of the tournament, the World No. 17 has claimed three straight victories. Fognini combined with Berrettini to clinch a tie-deciding doubles win against Austria and has also picked up singles wins against Benoit Paire and Pablo Carreno Busta.
“Fabio is really a great player. Everyone knows that he’s really talented,” said Rublev. “When he’s at his best, [it is] really tough to beat him… It’s going to be interesting. I have nothing to lose. He has all the pressure because he beat me more times than I [beat him]… It’s going to be a challenge for me. I will try to do my best and give my everything. I think it’s going to be great match from both of us.”
Rublev and Fognini will both be eager to deliver their teammates an opportunity to clinch the trophy. The title will be on the line in the No. 1 singles match, when Medvedev meets Berrettini.
Can Medvedev Or Berrettini Clinch The Title?
Medvedev enters the championship match on a 13-match winning streak. The Russian’s run began last year, when he claimed 10 straight victories to lift trophies at the Rolex Paris Masters and the Nitto ATP Finals. The World No. 4 has added three straight sets wins to that tally this week. Remarkably, during his 13-match winning run, Medvedev has overcome nine Top 10 opponents.
The 2020 Nitto ATP Finals titlist can take that statistic into double figures on Sunday, when he faces World No. 10 Berrettini. With a combined 4-0 record in singles and doubles, Berrettini has been one of the standout players of this year’s competition. The Rome-born star has already beaten a player ranked higher than Medvedev in the FedEx ATP Rankings at this event. In his opening match of the tournament, Berrettini claimed a 6-2, 6-4 win against World No. 3 Dominic Thiem.
“Italian tennis is amazing… It’s an amazing tennis nation,” said Medvedev. “They had maybe, for some time, just a little bit of a downfall, but just a little one. Now they’re back at it, especially [with] Matteo [and] Fabio playing amazing here.”
Both men have come a long way since they contested their only previous ATP Head2Head match at the 2018 BNP Paribas Open. On that occasion, World No. 57 Medvedev outlasted World No. 108 Berrettini 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-4. The prize? A third-round encounter with Pablo Carreno Busta. This time, the ATP Cup trophy could await the winner.
If the destination of the trophy is not decided by Medvedev and Berrettini’s second career meeting, captains Donskoy and Santopadre will play their biggest role in the tie. Will they commit to their original doubles selections, or place one of their singles stars into the team?
As player/captain, Donskoy is slated to play the final match of the tournament alongside Aslan Karatsev. Donskoy and Karatsev own a 0-2 team record this week. Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori are scheduled to represent Italy on the other side of the net, but they lost their only match of the week against Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Italy has played just one decisive doubles match this week and, on that occasion, Santopadre brought in his singles stars. The gamble paid off, as Berrettini and Fognini clinched a 6-1, 6-4 win against Thiem and Dennis Novak to clinch a 2-1 win against Austria.
It is difficult to predict which side will emerge victorious on Rod Laver Arena, but one matter is certain. There will be a new country inscribed on the ATP Cup trophy. Serbia won the inaugural edition of the event last year, but will it be Russia or Italy that makes history on Sunday?