Tennis-Flawless Medvedev keeps Russia's ATP Cup title defence alive
World number two Daniil Medvedev strolled past Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4 6-0 to keep alive Russia's hopes of defending their ATP Cup title, sending the semi-final tie against Canada on Saturday into a deciding doubles rubber.
Denis Shapovalov put Canada within one win of reaching the ATP Cup final for the first time with a battling 6-4 5-7 6-4 victory over Roman Safiullin in the first singles, putting Medvedev in a must-win situation in the second rubber. Medvedev delivered in style with a flawless performance against 11th-ranked Auger-Aliassime at the Ken Rosewall Arena, making it one-way traffic in the match after grabbing the first break in the ninth game of the opening set.
Playing from well behind the baseline, the U.S. Open champion forced Auger-Aliassime to go for his shots, contributing to a spiral of unforced errors by the Canadian. "It was really tough for me ... I actually thought, 'How can I actually break his serve?' He was serving just aces, playing good, so I knew I just had to stay in the match, try to do what I can, what's possible against his big game," Medvedev said.
"He definitely started to play a little bit worse and I managed to use it, and that was the key today." The winner of the tie will meet Spain in Sunday's final.
A depleted Russia, who beat Italy in last year's final, came into the $10 million tournament without fifth-ranked Andrey Rublev and world number 18 Aslan Karatsev after both tested positive for COVID-19 in the lead-up to the team event. In his first career meeting against the 167th-ranked Safiullin, the left-handed Shapovalov dominated proceedings to take the opening set, but the gritty Russian levelled things after his opponent hit an overhead smash into the net.
Safiullin looked set to force ahead for an upset win against the 14th-ranked Shapovalov when he had six breakpoints at 2-1 in the deciding set. But the 22-year-old saved all of them to hold serve and then used the shift in momentum to break for 4-3. Shapovalov, who had contracted COVID-19 in the lead-up of the ATP Cup, did not look back from there and completed the win in two hours and 39 minutes to give Canada a 1-0 lead.
"Definitely super tough. Obviously Roman is playing with a lot of confidence," Shapovalov said. "He's shown this competition that he definitely should be ranked in the top 100. The way he was playing today, it was top-10, top-20 tennis, it was incredible."
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