The emphatic rise of Russian tennis: Medvedev, Khachanov and Rublev
There were times when discussions about Russian tennis used to evoke top names such as Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova. However, there has been a systemic change now owing to the tremendous progress shown by the trio of Daniil Medvedev, Karen Khachanov, and Andrey Rublev.
While the likes of Nikolay Davydenko, Marat Safin, and Mikhail Youzhny put Russia on the world tennis map with their success in the top tournaments, these men are maintaining a stronghold on the tour and are pushing each other to achieve the best results.
It was in November 2018 when Khachanov announced himself to the world as a serious competitor when he stunned Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the finals of the Paris Masters. The Russian used his aggressive game plan and assured hitting to overcome the Serb.
2019 was one of the best years for Medvedev in his career as he reached six consecutive finals. He also reached the finals of the US Open losing a thrilling five-setter to Rafael Nadal.
He reached a career-high ranking of 4 and also won the Cincinnati and Shanghai Masters tournaments. He won the award for the best Russian tennis player of the year.
The 21-year-old Rublev who came through qualifying at the Cincinnati Open stunned Roger Federer 6-3 6-4 with some flawless shotmaking. It was Federer's fastest defeat (62 minutes) in more than 16 years.
Currently, Medvedev is ranked 6th while Rublev is placed at the 10th position in the rankings. On the other hand, Khachanov is sitting at the 17th spot.
While Medvedev is in the middle of a slump in form having lost three of his last four matches on the tour, Rublev is in sensational touch this year having triumphed in the Qatar Open, Adelaide Open, and the Hamburg Open after playing the finals in St.Petersburg. He also reached the quarterfinals in the US Open and the French Open.
Khachanov's best performances this year was a quarterfinal finish in the Dubai Championships, and a fourth-round exit in the French Open losing both times to Djokovic.
Medvedev has relied on his booming serve and powerful groundstrokes to do the damage. He is also an effective counter-attacker.
Rublev depends on his strong first-serve and accurate two-handed backhand. He is also very strong from the baseline. He loves to take charge of the rallies and finish off points quickly.
Khachanov who is fondly nicknamed as Baby Safin uses his topspin heavy forehand and down-the-line backhands to trouble his opponents. If he improves his net-play and comes up with an alternative plan when his power game is not working, he will win the big tournaments regularly.
According to former World number 1, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who won two Grand Slams in his career, healthy competition between the three players is a key factor behind their success. They know each other well right from their days as junior players.
From training in academies in France and Barcelona in their young days, they have come quite far. Their wait for a first Grand Slam title could come soon although stiff competition exists from the other Next-Gen players in the form of Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Tennis has been encouraged a lot in Russia with the federation giving a lot of freedom to its players along with heavy coverage in the media.
While there is no doubt about their talent, they just need to put all the elements of their game together to reap Grand Slam success.
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