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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, March 4, 2023


Daniil Medvedev rolled reigning champion Andrey Rublev 6-2, 6-2 in 1 68-minute Dubai final collecting his 14th straight win and 18th career title.

Photo credit: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

Racing right for a return, Daniil Medvedev was so far off court his back foot nearly brushed the Rolex clock in the corner.

Time tripping didn't faze Medvedev, who rifled a ridiculous short-angled return that left Andrey Rublev waving at confounding reply.

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Neither old friend Rublev nor the confines of the court could contain Medvedev's shotmaking brilliance tonight.

A red-hot Medvedev broke serve four times dethroning defending champion Rublev 6-2, 6-2 in a show-stopping Dubai final to continue one of the most successful streaks of his career.

Playing offensive tennis from defensive positions, Medvedev posted his 14th straight win collecting his 18th career championship, including his third consecutive crown in the last three weeks.

Last month, Medvedev rallied past Jannik Sinner in the Rotterdam final indoors. Last week, he swept Andy Murray in the Doha final outdoors last weekend.

Tonight he "destroyed" Rublev pounding 19 winners against only eight unforced errors.

In a near flawless performance, Medvedev fired nine aces against one double fault, did not face a break point and did not commit a backhand error razing Rublev's two-handed with a backhand barrage.

"It's amazing because the start of the year was not perfect," Medvedev said after improving to 18-12 in ATP finals. "In tennis when you don't win tournaments, you're always doubting no matter what happens on practice. So I was doubting a lot. "Now it just feels better. I was really happy with these three weeks and looking forward to the next ones."

Consider what Medvedev has done in the last 19 days. He's posted a 14-0 record, won 28 of 31 sets, snapped world No. 1 Novak Djokovic's 20-match losing streak, denied Rublev's quest to join Roger Federer and Djokovic as the third man to win back-to-back Dubai crowns and solidified his status as one of the world's premier players without dropping a set in Dubai.

Bounced out of the Australian Open third round in straight sets by Sebastian Korda, Medvedev summed up his fantastic February into March run in a word: confidence.

"Sometimes, you feel you're doing all the right shots and things and you're losing matches and sometimes you don't even think anymore, just go for it, go for some crazy stuff," Medvedev said. "I tried to go for one on the match point, it didn't work.

"A lot of shots were landing this tournament that maybe weren't supposed to be and when confidence is going sometimes it helps a lot."

Though Rublev carried a 12-5 finals record into this title match and had won his last two meetings vs. Medvedev, including a 6-7(7), 6-3, 7-6(7) win at the ATP Finals Turin last November, he simply didn't have the answers tonight.

Afterward one of the game's most explosive power players showed pure class with a touching tribute to his friend and conqueror. 

"Great matches, great victories, but in the end Daniil destroyed me tonight only four games I don't know how he's doing that three titles in a row," Rublev said. "This is my first final of the season and I'm completely destroyed and he won three titles in a row.

"I never said this to Daniil face-to-face, but I have huge, huge respect for him. And to be honest he's a real champion and real inspiration for the players.

"Because obviously we know each other since we were kids and Daniil didn't have much financial help or power and I never hear from him never that he was unlucky or that he doesn't have other players' financial help. He always was just working hard and he proved that he is a real champion."

In response, Medvedev playfully made a fake tears gesture before praising Rublev as a future Slam champion while jabbing Stefanos Tsitsipas, who called Rublev a player of "few tools", without mentioning the Greek by name.

"I just want to say that I remember not long ago one player says that [Andrey Rublev] has just a few weapons and I was reading this interview and I was like how can you say this?" Medvedev told fans in Dubai and those watching TV coverage around the world. "In my opinion, Andrey is one of the most skillful players on the tour. He just didn't exploit fully his potential yet, but I'm sure he can win Grand Slams.

"Hopefully, he can beat this guy who said it many, many times. I wish this for sure. Also want to say I feel that people start to know it that Andrey is probably the kindest person on Tour and I just want to say it so people know it."

It's imperative to get off to a fast start against Medvedev, but Rublev was playing catch-up from the start.

Medvedev won the toss, elected to receive and immediately elicited errors from his opponent's backhand to break in the opening game. Medvedev quickly confirmed the break for a 2-0 lead and never looked back.

Down a dire double-break point at 1-3, Rublev reconnected with his first serve at the right time. Hooking a vicious slice wide, he nearly dragged the world No. 7 into the front row in retrieval to repel the first break point. Rublev ripped his first ace to save the second break point as he hung tough holding for 2-3.

Beating an in-form Medvedev on hard-court requires either superb serving or the skill closing at net to exploit his deep court positioning. Look at players who have beaten Medvedev in the past ranging from Roger Federer to Rafael Nadal to Nick Kyrgios to Korda in Melbourne—all showed the skills to close at net and use the drop shot or short slice at times to lure the 6'6" Russian forward.

The man in black badly bungled a smash then butchered a backhand volley that didn't make net falling into a love-30 hole and giving himself a sarcastic thumbs up. After that front court horror show it takes guts to keep pressing forward, but Rublev did exactly that pulling off successive bold backhand volleys for 30-all.

All that good work dissipated in the face of his friend's racquet skills. Pushed nearly to the side wall chasing a slice serve, the elastic Medvedev curled an audacious angled forehand return for another break point.

One reason Medvedev controls this rivalry is he owns the fail-safe play and a major edge going backhand-to-backhand with his buddy. Medvedev banged out a wild backhand error to break again for 5-2 after 33 minutes.

Slamming down a pair of aces, Medvedev powered through a love hold closing the 36-minute first set firing his fifth ace down the middle.

An oppressive Medvedev barely missed in the set firing 13 winners against just two unforced errors. Medvedev served 71 percent and won 12 of 15 first-serve points.

Reigning champion Rublev tried to do the right thing attacking net—he won eight of 11 trips to net in the first set—but Medvedev devoured his opponent's second serve winning eight of 11 Rublev second-serve points.

Though he showed some signs of anger screaming misgivings and expletives into his hand in the first set, Rublev focused on the fight to start the second. The red-haired Rublev roared back from love-30 down holding for 2-1.

Digging out a low forehand winner with amazing control, Medvedev pressured again to 15-30 in the fifth game.

The disguise the 2021 US Open champion dispenses on his groundstrokes makes detecting the direction of his drives demanding. Medvedev froze Rublev lashing a clean forehand strike down the line to break for the third time for 3-2.

Emotional angst Rublev contained earlier in the set bubbled over as a masterful Medvedev continued to shrink open court space. Rublev's first instinct is grip and rip, his second instinct: repeat Plan A. The problem is pace does not faze Medvedev, who bled another forehand error from his friend breaking for 5-2.

Serving for his third straight title, Medvedev zapped an ace wide for triple championship point.

On his second championship point, Medvedev slammed a serve down the middle defeating Rublev for the fifth time in seven meetings.

It's the second-longest winning streak of Medvedev's career and puts him in fine three-peat company.

The 27-year-old Medvedev’s fantastic February run sees him become the third player in as many seasons to win three tournaments in successive weeks, joining Felix Auger-Aliassime (October 2022) and Casper Ruud (July 2021).


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