After losing third-set tie-breaks in each of his Nitto ATP Finals matches last season, Daniil Medvedev played two sets of the highest quality to bounce back with a 6-4, 6-2 victory against Andrey Rublev in his 2023 opener.
The close friends treated the Turin crowd to a breathtaking match full of lung-busting rallies, with Medvedev saving seven break points in the opening set — all in his last two service games of the set — before dominating from the start in set two.
“I felt good and I managed to put it on the court,” Medvedev said post-match. “First set was really tough. I managed to just get a little bit the upper hand on the most clutch moments, and this helped me in the second, so I’m really happy.”
The result extended Medvedev’s lead for most tour-level wins (65) and most hard-court wins (48) this season and provided the perfect start in his bid to equal Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz on six tour-level titles on the year. Three of those match wins have come against Rublev this season (also in Dubai and at the US Open), after Rublev beat Medvedev in Turin last season. Medvedev now holds a 7-2 advantage in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series.
In an eventful opening set that featured an endless supply of world-class baseline exchanges, Rublev fought off four early break points before dropping serve at 3-3 — a badly missed swinging volley on break point breaking the pattern of rock-solid tennis from both players for much of the set. Rublev raised his level from there to threaten on return, but Medvedev summoned big serves time and again, ultimately closing out the set in a marathon six-deuce game.
“I like to play aggressive on my serve or the first shot after the return. But Rublev plays such a style that he doesn’t give me any other option because I don’t have the power of Alcaraz or maybe Tsitsipas, like on my forehand,” Medvedev said of his patient tactics. “So it’s a little bit of a different style where I try to go left and right and move my opponent. He’s very good at this game. What happens is we’re both good at this game and as you could see in the first set, we have to run, run, run, run, run! So that’s not the case against everyone but against him, that’s the only chance I have.”
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Set two was more straightforward, with Medvedev breaking in the opening game and not facing a break point in closing out the victory. The straight-sets result moves the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals champion to the top of the Red Group, with Alexander Zverev also at 1-0 following his afternoon win against Carlos Alcaraz.
Rublev, who has won a career-best 56 matches this season, will seek to bounce back on Wednesday against Alcaraz. Medvedev will meet Zverev on Wednesday with first place in the group on the line.