The Russian tennis monster has grown steadily in recent years. But in Melbourne Park it has become bigger than ever. First, Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev brought their country to glory in the ATP Cup. Now at the Australian Open, three Russians – with World No. 114 Aslan Karatsev joining Medvedev and Rublev – have entered the quarterfinals of the Grand Slam for the first time in the Open Era.
The stars of this earth do not shine only below; they make history. At home, former world number 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov could not be happier.
“It was really expected that the two of them got to where they are. The third is a big but very happy surprise. I am very happy for Aslan, who has finally made his breakthrough, ”Kafelnikov told ATPTour.com. “He will play a lot of tournaments now without any pressure until the end of the 2021 season in terms of entering the main draw, and a big salary check will also be a big boost for him. I’m really happy for him. ”
During the ATP Cup, it was clear that Medvedev and Rublev were the dominant forces in their country. The stars performed incredible performances against the world’s best players. They lost a combination of two individual sets throughout the event, creating an abundance of hype that led to the Australian Open. They met those expectations during their first Grand Slam season, where they will play each other in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. But for Kafelnikov, no matter what happened, this is just the beginning.
“We all know it’s inevitable that he’ll win a slam,” Kafelnikov said. “The question is when and where.”
Kafelnikov was the first Russian to win a Grand Slam individual championship at Roland Garros in 1996, and he also triumphed at the Australian Open in 1999. Another former world number one from Russia, Marat Safin, also carried two major trophies, his last coming to Melbourne Park in 2005. Since then, no man from their country has won a slam, but Kafelnikov will be excited about a countryman who is changes.
“To be honest, I would be happy if one of those guys or even both of them surpassed me in the number of titles and weeks in the first place in the world,” Kafelnikov said for Medvedev and Rublev. “I would be happy. I won’t be jealous of that. My career has been very successful and I hope it will get better [careers]. ”
The 53-year-old singles and doubles subtitle, Kafelnikov says that although Russian children once looked up to him and Safin, they now naturally idolize Medvedev, Rublev and 20th world player Karen Khachanov. Their success inspires future generations.
“It’s a great example [Russian] parents who at one stage want their children to be on the same level [in sports]”, Said Kafelnikov. “It simply came to our notice then. [It is like] what I did with Marat back in the 1990s and early 2000s when we came and played well and became famous all over the world. I think these are great examples. It all depends on them what will happen in the future. ”
Medvedev, Rublev and Khachanov – who were not in the Russian ATP Cup this year, but reached the third round at the Australian Open – are close friends. They have been on the radar of world tennis for years, and all three competed in the 2017 Next Gen ATP final.
Fans and journalists were warned that although Karatsev did not attract attention during the run for the state title, he should have been watched. According to Medvedev, Karatsev was Russia’s “secret weapon.” The 27-year-old “secret” came out after making it to the quarterfinals in his first Grand Slam main draw.
“It’s great for our sport [in Russia]. With Andrey, [we are] really happy for Aslan because he trained well in the ATP Cup. “We felt like he could do something amazing,” Medvedev said. “To be honest, being in your first Grand Slam main draw and making quarters is something extraordinary. [His run is] it’s not over yet. Let’s see how it goes tomorrow. ”
One Russian is guaranteed to reach the semifinals because Medvedev and Rublev are playing each other, and two will score the last four in Melbourne if Karatsev upsets the former third world player Grigor Dimitrov. But this is not an aberration.
At the 2019 US Open, Medvedev became the first Russian to reach the Grand Slam finals individually since Safin won the Australian Open in 2005. He then lifted the biggest trophy of his career at last year’s Nitto ATP final. Rublev led the ATP Tour with five crowns last season and entered the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP rankings, making Russia the only country with two players in the elite group.
How does the generation of these Russians compete in relation to the challenges faced by Kafelnikov and Safin two decades ago? Kafelnikov does not want to compare the two, feeling that it is unfair to all the players involved.
“It’s a million-dollar question and it’s hard for me to answer. We would probably say that we played a slightly harder generation in terms of the average level of players, and they would say that they played in the era of the Big Three when these guys won practically every slam in the last 13, 14 years “, said Kafelnikov. “It is almost unfair to draw the line between generations. We all had a hard time playing against guys like Sampras, Agassi, Becker, Edberg, Querten, such players. They would say that they played hard against Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. That is understandable. ”
Kafelnikov simply wants this group to shine and he will watch Russian stars try to continue to leave a mark in Australia.
“I will watch Karatsev play against Dimitrov, and then I will watch the Rublev-Medvedev match on Wednesday,” Kafelnikov said. “I’m very excited, but it’s not just me. All the fans in Russia are excited. “