The Russian Tennis Federation punched its ticket to the 2021 Davis Cup Finals championship match with a semifinal triumph over Germany on Saturday at Madrid Arena in Spain.
Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev, two of the top-five ranked players in the world, swept the singles matches for the Russians over Dominik Koepfer and Jan-Lennard Struff, respectively. Those victories rendered the doubles result meaningless.
The Russian Tennis Federation advances to face Croatia, who defeated Novak Djokovic and Serbia in Friday's semifinal, in the final on Sunday.
1. Rublev (RUS) d. Koepfer (GER); 6-4, 6-0
2. Medvedev (RUS) d. Struff (GER); 6-4, 6-4
3. Kevin Krawietz and Tim Putz (GER) d. Aslan Karatsev and Karen Khachanov (RUS): 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
The presence of Medvedev (No. 2 in the ATP Tour rankings) and Rublev (No. 5) gives the Russian Tennis Federation a massive advantage on paper heading into the final. Croatia has been using Marin Cilic (No. 30) and Borna Gojo (No. 279) as its singles tandem.
Any edge associated with the extra day of rest was likely rendered moot by how quickly the Russian pair got off the court Saturday. Rublev needed only 50 minutes to breeze past Koepfer, and Medvedev secured his win in just over an hour (1:06), so they should both be fresh.
"Croatia is a very strong team, it has always been at the Davis Cup," Medvedev told reporters. "I am not expecting anything easy, so we will have to play our best to have our chances to win."
While the Russian Tennis Federation has swept the singles matches in both of its matchups in the knockout round, things could get interesting if one of the Croatian players can score an upset.
Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, Croatia's doubles team, have gone 4-0 in the tournament without dropping a set. That includes a clinching win over Djokovic and Filip Krajinovic in the semis.
If the championship match goes the distance, it'll be interesting to see how the Russians attempt to counterattack that in-form pair. They used Rublev and Aslan Karatsev in doubles in the group stage en route to a couple of three-set wins.
The question is whether they'd use that tandem again or potentially team Rublev and Medvedev with the title hanging in the balance. It could prove difficult for Medvedev—who's been playing in the second singles slot—to play doubles on a short turnaround if his singles match is a long, hard-fought encounter, though.
The Russian Tennis Federation will hope that decision doesn't even come into play. If it plays up to potential in singles, it could be an anticlimactic final.