Masterful showings from Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev have delivered Russia a maiden ATP Cup over Italy in Sunday’s final.
World No.4 Medvedev extended his winning streak to 14 matches – 10 of those now against top-10 opposition – following a 6-4 6-2 triumph over Matteo Berrettini to complete a 2-0 result.
Eighth-ranked Rublev earlier opened the Russians’ account with a 6-1 6-2 hammering of world No.17 Fabio Fognini.
The Russian duo finished undefeated in eight singles matches combined at this year’s event and dropped just two sets in total.
“It's a really big achievement, I would say, because I also didn't lose a match. Yeah, 10 matches against top-10 opponents, didn't lose a match in these 10 matches. It's a big boost in confidence,” Medvedev said.
“Even when you lose, you know that you're capable of playing this level, and it helps you for the next time to stand up.”
Berrettini entered Sunday’s final in fine form, having downed Dominic Thiem, Gael Monfils and Roberto Bautista Agut without the loss of a set.
He quickly found it tougher going, however, against Medvedev’s relentless baseline onslaught.
The Italian world No.10 was unable to cause enough damage off his backhand as Medvedev broke early for 2-1, and went on to collect the opening set with back-to-back aces.
At 1-all in the second set, Medvedev scrambled to every corner and nullified the increasingly heavy forehands Berrettini fired his way as he picked off a backhand volley winner to secure a telling break.
When Medvedev drilled a backhand at the Italian at net, it drew a defensive volley wide for the double break and he hurtled to the finish line in 79 minutes on the back of 13 winners.
“He was really solid. I was struggling to win the point, to play my game,” Berrettini said.
“He's returning very well ... I couldn't find a way to win the match. In these days, you just have to say 'bravo' to him … He's confident, you can tell. He's a really tough player to beat.”
Earlier, Rublev’s 62-minute victory was even more profound.
The 23-year-old had only beaten Fognini once in six prior meetings, but from the get-go on Sunday, he ran rings around the hapless Italian.
Fognini tried in vain to slow down his opponent between serves to break his rhythm, but the Russian simply laughed it off and thumped a forehand winner into the corner to take the opening set after 25 minutes.
There was nowhere to hide for Fognini as Rublev peeled off the last 15 points of the match.
His 23 winners to only six unforced errors and no break points faced told the story.
“I was playing really well all week since the first match. I was just going on court thinking I need to fight for every ball,” Rublev said.
“I’ve played Fabio five or six times and lost some really tough matches, really painful ones so I knew that it doesn’t matter the score, he always has chances, he always knows how to come back so I was trying to keep going no matter the score.
“You don’t improve in one day, it takes years, so in the end probably it was my journey like this.”
Fognini left little doubt his opponents were arguably the men to beat at Melbourne Park in the coming fortnight.
“We play with the two best shape guys in the circuit at the moment,” he said.
“Especially in my case, it's tough to say, but I don't have these kind of matches, this kind of speed during the point.”