Daniil Medvedev had just put Russia into the Davis Cup final by sealing a win over Germany when he turned to the stands at the Madrid Arena and started pointing repeatedly at the hard court beneath his feet.
He was here to stay in Madrid for one more day, to lead Russia against Croatia for the most illustrious team trophy in men’s tennis.
The jeers poured down from the German fans and neutral Spaniards, but the world’s second-ranked player didn’t mind. In fact, he egged them on and defiantly stamped his foot before he pumped his fist to the Russian contingent soaking up their victory.
Medvedev said it was just his team’s way of celebrating in an imitation of other team sports like soccer where the `stay calm’ gesture has become popular. And if the crowd took it wrong, so be it.
“We have a joke on the team when we practice or play cards, I have seen football players like Cristiano (Ronaldo) do it, we say `calm, calm, calm’,” Medvedev said. “So I decided to celebrate like this and everyone started whistling… I am just really happy we managed to still be here on Sunday.”
Medvedev brushed aside Jan-Lennard Struff aside 6-4, 6-4 to seal the Russian victory on Saturday after Andrey Rublev took the lead with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Dominik Koepfer.
Croatia awaits Russia after eliminating Novak Djokovic’s Serbia on Friday. Both Russia and Croatia will be aiming for a third Davis Cup title.
“Croatia is a very strong team, it has always been at the Davis Cup,” Medvedev said. “I am not expecting anything easy, so we will have to play our best to have our chances to win.”
Medvedev reaches the final, where he should be slated to face Croatia’s No. 1 Marin Cilic, after not dropping a single set at the tournament.
With four players ranked in the top 30, Russia was favored against a German team playing without star Alexander Zverev.
The reigning U.S. Open champion had little trouble commanding his serve against Struff, and it seemed only a matter of when he could pounce on a mistake by the German.
Struff hung tight with Medvedev until he dug himself into a 0-40 hole at 4-4 in the first set. He saved two break points before sending an approach shot into the net to fall behind. Medvedev then held his serve easily to take a one-set lead.
Medvedev pressed home his advantage after going up a break at 3-2 in the second set.
The fifth-ranked Rublev had shown weakness over the past week. He lost to Spain’s 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez and had to go to three sets to beat Ecuador’s Roberto Quiroz and Swede Elias Ymer.
He needed just 50 minutes to see off Koepfer.
Rublev smashed in six aces to ease to a set advantage. Koepfer faded fast, ceding breaks in his three service games of the second set as Rublev cruised to victory.
The Russian team is officially being called RTF (Russian Tennis Federation) in the competition amid its ongoing doping suspension in international sport.