Marin Cilic cursed. And with good reason: to play like never before and, as often happens when Daniil Medvedev appears on the other side of the net, to lose as almost always. The Croatian leader tried by all means, but it was diluted as his physique and spirit gave way, and in the final logic also prevailed. Russia, which had landed in the Davis Cup as the great favorite and with an enviable cast of tennis players, two top-5 at the helm, he prevailed and celebrated in the Madrid Arena: there are now three Davis Cup Salad Bowls, the same as Germany. That is to say, it is seventh in the historical classification and now it is behind Spain, which has six trophies and this edition remained in the group stage.
The Russian brooch, of course, came from the hand of Medvedev, who throughout these two weeks has set the pace of the tournament with victories: five out of five in the singles, without giving up any set. Only Novak Djokovic, four out of four as a soloist, was able to keep up with him. The number one, however, was dismounted in the semifinals and the 25-year-old Muscovite found a free way to success. His team had not given the award since 2006, when Marat Safin did mischief and he was already pointing out ways in children’s tournaments. Since then, Medvedev, a sensational player on the cusp of an ambitious project, has been tracked.
Paradoxically, Russia is crowned again when another name appears on the label, that of the Russian Tennis Federation. Sanctioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency – at the Tokyo Games, all Russian teams and athletes competed under the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) – parade through the world of tennis as a true super power and collect titles. This year, all possible. His boys raised the ATP Cup at the start of the season, his girls took over the Billie Jean King Cup (the old Federation Cup) just a month ago and now the old Davis celebrates, after a practically immaculate route.
In the midst of those achievements, Karen Khachanov’s Olympic silver (29th in the ranking) and gold in the mixed of Andrey Rublev (5th) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (11th). From conquest to conquest. Along with them, Aslan Karatsev (18th), Daria Kasatkina (26th), Veronika Kudermetova (31st) and many others and other tennis players compete on board the battleship. A judo fan, Vladimir Putin boasts of triumphs through the racket, the old dream of former president Boris Yeltsin, with which courts, tournaments and licenses multiplied three decades ago. “It all started with him”, puts the captain, Shamil Tarpischev, the man (73 years old) who neither flinches nor blinks.
In command of the team since 1974, then under the hammer and sickle of the USSR, he enlisted a group of bells for this edition and Russia responded to the logic: they arrived as the best and left in the same way. Despite a charter transferring 150 fans to Madrid and the red-and-white checkerboard dominating the stands, the final was one-way. Both Borna Gojo (279th) and Cilic debated with pride, but Rublev (6-4 and 7-6 (5) in the first turn) and Medvedev (7-6 (7) and 6-2 in the second) sentenced for no having to face a hypothetical and cumbersome duel against the powerful Croatian doubles.
Among those present, a lot of football fans: Modric, Figo, Rafa Márquez … And a feeling: difficult, very difficult for Russia to escape, riding the great Medvedev, who rounded off a fantastic campaign in which he raised his first great (US Open) and he has been the player who has supported Djokovic the most, solidly installed behind the Serbian in the world list. “Thanks for the support, guys,” he laughed at the public in parliament at the foot of the track, after being whistled the day before for a challenging celebration. Quirky and great, with his own stamp, he is the spearhead of the gigantic Russian success.
You can follow EL PAÍS DEPORTES in Facebook and Twitter, or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.