The Russians and the return of Roger Federer, protagonists in the first stage of the year

The first quarter of the 2021 season on the ATP Tour was a historic affair, with new and familiar faces making headlines. Daniil Medvedev made a leap in the rankings and in the ATP Cup he led Russia to glory alongside Andrey Rublev and Aslan Karatsev, who came out of obscurity to become one of the most fiery players of the season.

And of course the tennis world rejoiced at the return of Roger Federer after more than a year on the sidelines. The good intentions of the Russians in the ATP Cup There were few surprises when Daniil Medvedev started racing in 2021.

As the fittest player at the end of 2020, he continued his level in Australia while guiding Russia to their first ATP Cup title over Italy. Daniil and Andrey Rublev conceded only two sets between them, as they won all eight individual matches they played.

With the victory over Matteo Berrettini in the first match of the final, Medvedev, then 24, led a 14-match winning streak to the Australian Open (10 of those wins were against Top 10 opponents).

Rublev sealed the trophy when he defeated Fabio Fognini. No one realized that the man the Russians anointed as their “secret weapon,” the unknown stunt teammate Aslan Karatsev, was about to embark on his own career.

Medvedev ends 16-year reign and becomes the new number 2 After a dazzling start to the season, in which he remained undefeated in Russia’s successful ATP Cup campaign and reached his second Grand Slam final at the Australian Open, Medvedev fell one match away from becoming the new No. .

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2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings against Djokovic. However, he would not have to wait long to ascend to that place. The Russian captured his 10th ATP Tour title at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille and officially displaced Nadal as No.

2 of the world the next day. He was the first player, other than Djokovic, Federer, Nadal or Andy Murray to occupy one of the top two places since 2005. “It’s been a week now, I could feel maybe pressure, [pero] no.

I feel like it gives me a boost of energy, ”Medvedev said in Miami, where he was the first seed at a Masters 1000 event for the first time. “I just want to play better and better to show myself that I deserve it.”

A lit Rublev Where many find fear paralyzing, Russian No. 2 Rublev finds a greater motivating force. The 23-year-old has won more tour-level matches in 2021 (20-4 on the season) than any other player, noted for his unbeaten streak in Russia’s successful ATP Cup campaign and an eighth ATP Tour title in Rotterdam.

The 23-year-old’s victory over Marton Fucsovics in the Rotterdam ATP 500 final extended his winning streak at ATP 500 events to 20 matches, before compatriot Karatsev ended that streak with 23 semi-final victories in Dubai.

It was Rublev’s seventh consecutive victory in an ATP Tour final. “It is this kind of fear that is not enough,” Rublev said. “Fear of not making it or fear of not being good enough for a while.

In the end, this fear helped me improve, and that is why I want to improve and improve ”. Rublev also made his first Masters 1000 semi-final at the Miami Open presented by Itaú. He is currently third in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin, behind only Djokovic and Medvedev.

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Karatsev breaks it and backs it up Everything could have been so different for the late blooming Russian. The 27-year-old had won qualifying at the Australian Open in Doha to seal his first place in the main draw of a Grand Slam.

But if he had taken his original flight to Melbourne, in which several passengers tested positive for COVID-19, Karatsev would have entered a strict two-week quarantine instead of being able to practice. Thanks to that, he arrived at his 100% to compete at Melbourne Park.

At 253 in the FedEx ATP Rankings just a year ago, Karatsev beat eighth seed Diego Schwartzman, eighteenth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and twenty seed Grigor Dimitrov en route to becoming the first man in the Open Era to reach the semifinals in a major on his debut.

Despite falling to eventual champion Djokovic, Karatsev solidified the excitement with his maiden ATP Tour title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, snapping second-seeded Rublev’s 23-win streak at the ATP 500 level.

He now ranks sixth in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin. “If you had told me this was going to happen, I would not have believed it,” he said. “With success, you never know when it will come, but I always believed that I could do it.”

The return of Federer Thirteen months after his last court appearance, the 39-year-old Swiss made his long-awaited return to competition in Doha after two knee surgeries.

There were promising signs when the 103-time touring champion defeated tough Brit Daniel Evans, a frequent practice partner, before missing a match point in a three-set loss to eventual champion Nikoloz Basilashvili.

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Then Federer chose to get off Dubai and Miami to return to practice. “I think many of my close friends and the people around me were looking forward to this return. I finally did it and I was even able to win, ”said Federer.

“I think some people didn’t expect that because they know what I went through. It was like winning a great tournament. Messages kept coming in. ”

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