Russian Tennis Federation will go into its Davis Cup by Rakuten quarter-final with Sweden as overwhelming favourites, but world No.2 Daniil Medvedev doesn’t intend to take anything for granted when the two teams clash at the Madrid Arena on Thursday
Medvedev, who has spent just two hours, 24 minutes on court during his straight-set victories over Ecuador’s Emilio Gomez and Spain’s Pablo Carreno, admitted that his team will be favourites to defeat Sweden but he also explained that wouldn’t change his team’s approach to the tie.
“We know we are the favourites,” said Medvedev. “But, in sport, it doesn't matter. We need to show our best tennis to win. Both teams are used to the conditions. They had one day more [off] but we have [had] a lot also, so it doesn't matter.
“I saw a few of their matches. It seemed like they were playing good. Like every time in Davis Cup, it's going to be a tough match.”
With four players ranked higher than Sweden’s No.1, Mikael Ymer, it’s fair to say that Russian captain Shamil Tarpischev can afford to play around with his line-up. Thus far in the competition, the experienced captain has fielded exactly the same players – Andrey Rublev and Medvedev in singles followed by Aslan Karatsev and Rublev in doubles.
World No.5 Rublev has looked out of sorts in both his singles matches. He was pushed to three sets by Roberto Quiroz against Ecuador and he lost to 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez against Spain. So it begs the question: will Tarpischev mix things up and opt to give world No.29 Karen Khachanov a place in singles?
This is the Davis Cup and match by match is what counts (Robin Soderling)
Whoever they face, Sweden know they go in as underdogs on paper. Captain Robin Soderling explained that his message to his players would be simple.
“I will tell them to believe,” Soderling said. “Everyone knows RTF is the favourite on paper, but it’s not impossible to beat them. We have a chance. We have to perform at the top of our game and get two out of three wins. It really doesn’t matter which of the matches or in what way we do it.
“This is the Davis Cup and match by match is what counts. I know what my players are capable of, and they have been playing well here in Madrid. We have to believe in ourselves.”
Should the tie come down to the doubles, it could be an opportunity for Robert Lindstedt to be Sweden’s hero. The 44-year-old came out of retirement to compete in the Davis Cup Finals and would like nothing more than to show once more why he reached a career-high doubles ranking of No.3 and has a Grand Slam doubles title to his name.
For the Russians, the doubles pairing of Karatsev and Rublev looks to be the one favoured by captain Tarpischev.
Sunday night’s victory over Marc Granollers and Lopez gave them a much-needed confidence boost going into the Knockout Stages.
“It's a great, great result,” Rublev said after clinching the tie against Spain on Sunday. “For me and for Aslan, to feel that we can beat great doubles players who compete on a top level. To bring for us more confidence to play against them. I think [it] was a great challenge for us.”
And Karatsev revealed that his team came to Madrid with one goal – to return home as world champions.
“Everybody arrived here to win the title,” he said. “Every player will give 100 per cent to win the title. We have an unbelievably strong team. Everybody pushes until their limits. Yeah, we're looking to be champions.”