Daniil Medvedev returns to Andrey Rublev during their final match of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on Saturday. Agence France-Presse
Daniil Medvedev backed close friend Andrey Rublev to beat bitter rival Stefanos Tsitsipas “many, many times” after the Greek appeared to disparage the Russian for having only a “few tools” to defeat him at the 2022 ATP Tour Finals.
Medvedev, who beat Rublev 6-2, 6-2 in the Dubai final on Saturday, criticised Tsitsipas for making such comments, sharing some pointed words about the incident during the trophy ceremony.
The 2022 champion Rublev, who defeated Jiri Vesely in last year’s final, was aiming to become the third repeat titlist at the ATP 500 event in Dubai, alongside Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
“I just want to say that I remember not long ago one player said that he has just a few weapons, and I was reading this and I was like, ‘How can you say this?’” said Medvedev.
“Andrey is one of the most skilful players on the tour, he just didn’t exploit fully his potential but I’m sure that he can win Grand Slams, hopefully he can beat this guy who said it, many, many times, and I wish this for sure.”
Tsitsipas later told Arab News that he only made those statements about Rublev’s game to fire up the Russian for his next match at the ATP Finals against Casper Ruud, who was in direct competition with Tsitsipas for a place in the year-end top three ranking spots.
“What I said in that press conference against Rublev was very unfair towards him and not correct,” said Tsitsipas in December.
Rublev said he did not take Tsitsipas’s comments personally, and acknowledged his rival’s apology.
“I’m also emotional, and I know how you can say some things and do some things when you are under the emotions,” added Rublev on Saturday.
Rublev was unable to defend his title in Dubai and looked increasingly frustrated on court but heaped praise on Medvedev during his runner-up speech.
“I think I never said this to Daniil face to face, but I have huge, huge respect for him,” said the 25-year-old.
“He’s a real champion and a real inspiration for the players. We’ve known each other since we were kids.
“Daniil didn’t have much financial help or power, and I never heard from him, never that he was unlucky or that he doesn’t have like other players financial help or something. He was always working hard and proved that he’s a real champion.”
Medvedev has now won three titles in three consecutive weeks, after Rotterdam and Qatar, and will now take a 14-match unbeaten streak into the ‘Sunshine Swing’ of Indian Wells and Miami.
The former world number one, who ended Djokovic’s 20-match win streak in the semi-finals in Dubai, insists he isn’t taking anything for granted. Djokovic opened the year by winning the Adelaide International event ahead of the Australian Open, where he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas to claim a record 22nd Grand Slam title
“Tennis is weeks, weeks, weeks after weeks, so for example if I lose in Indian Wells early, I’ll probably straightaway lose the confidence, that’s how sometimes tennis is,” said the 2021 US Open champion.
“After the Australian Open (in the third round to Sebastian Korda), tough loss, three sets to love, I was feeling bad, I was doubting myself before Rotterdam, I was not feeling good at all.
“I managed to keep some confidence going and I’m really happy about it.”
The 27-year-old’s strong hard-court form has lifted him to No. 6 in the ATP Live Rankings, rising above Rublev, who drops to No. 7. With his Tour-leading 19th win of the season, Medvedev improved to 5-2 in his ATP Head to Head series against the 25-year-old Rublev.
The former World No. 1 is six victories from equalling his career-best winning streak on the ATP Tour, having earned 20 consecutive victories from November 2020 to January 2021.
Notably, Medvedev has won his 18 tour-level titles in 18 different cities. He is the first man in the Open Era to accomplish the feat.