In an all-Russian battle, top seed Daniil Medvedev will take on the fourth-seeded Andrey Rublev for a place in the final at the ATP Cincinnati Masters on Saturday. World #2 Medvedev has been the man to beat in the twin Masters 1000 events in the lead up to the US Open this year. He dropped just two sets en route to his title victory at Toronto last week and is yet to drop a set so far at Cincinnati.
The top seed breezed past Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1 6-1 within an hour, and unfathomable defense was the feature of Medvedev’s comprehensive win over the Spaniard. Medvedev relishes playing on the hard courts and believes in keeping things simple. He is like a brick wall behind the baseline, making his opponent play an extra shot. His strategy of positioning himself deep behind the baseline while returning the serves has brought him great dividends and will continue to execute the same when he takes on his compatriot, Rublev.
On the other hand, Rublev had to work hard in his three-set victory to seal the semifinal berth. He got past resurgent Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-2 3-6 6-3. Rublev, the younger of the two Russians, who had an incredible run towards the back-end of the 2020 season, has struggled to achieve the same level of consistency so far this year. With US Open just around the corner, he would be keen to hit the top gear in his upcoming encounter.
Medvedev has a clean 4-0 head-to-head record against Rublev so far on the ATP Tour. Considering his current form, he once again starts as a favorite. Medvedev cruised to a 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 straight-sets victory over his countryman in their most meeting at the Australian Open at the beginning of this season. In their only meeting at Cincinnati Masters, Medvedev bested Rublev without being troubled 6-2, 6-3 two years ago.
While Medvedev has navigated his way on a canter so far at Cincinnati, Rublev possesses the heart and the tools to challenge the former. Rublev not only has an eccentric forehand but also has pace on his shots from his backhand wing and can hurry Medvedev. However, Rublev cannot afford to play just a one-dimensional game against someone like Medvedev who displays phenomenal court coverage and must aim to mix things up to keep his opponent guessing. Medvedev typically prefers to dictate the rallies from behind the baseline and Rublev needs to make a conscious effort to end the points by approaching towards the net whenever he gets a chance.
Medvedev’s serve has been broken just twice so far at Cincinnati and Rublev must hold his service games before he fancies putting pressure on Medvedev’s service games. The 25-year-old Medvedev and 23-year-old Rublev seem to be at the peaks of their prowess. As a result, the upcoming semifinal promises to be a feast of a contest if both the Russians can hit their top gear simultaneously.
Cincinnati has been a happy hunting ground for Medvedev who won his first-ever Masters 1000 title at this venue in 2019. He would dearly hope to continue his rich vein of form against Rublev to book a spot in the final for 2nd time in two weeks to give himself a chance to complete Toronto-Cincinnati double before heading to New York. Can Medvedev hold firm to continue his winning steak against Rublev or will the latter upset Medvedev to surge one step closer towards his maiden Masters 1000 title?
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