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Medvedev vs. Rublev: Friends Turn Foes For A Night At US Open

Inside one of the closest friendships on the ATP Tour
September 06, 2023
Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev at the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev at the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals in Turin. By ATP Staff

Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev are more than just opponents. They are like family.

But that does not matter when they are standing across the net. One player wins, the other loses. There is no in between. The athletes both want the same thing, but only one can earn it. That will be no different when Medvedev and Rublev clash inside Arthur Ashe Stadium for a place in the US Open semi-finals on Wednesday.

The two men are fierce competitors. But a certain result or scoreline will not change the fact that Rublev is the godfather of Medvedev’s 11-month-old daughter.

“I think we're really close friends. I think we have a great relationship even if on the court we're big competitors,” Medvedev said. “I think nothing is going to, let's call it, come between us to separate us in real life. We're really close.”

Nearly two decades ago, Medvedev and Rublev were like any pair of juniors competing. They would pull out every trick in the book. They would lob one another from the baseline to try to win. The player losing would often whine, even cry. The other would do everything to keep it that way. What kid likes to lose, anyway?

“Both of us were crazy on court. Destroying the racquets, complaining,” Rublev said at the 2020 US Open. “What I remember from him, he was always one of the biggest fighters that I ever saw in my life since he was, I don't know, seven years old. He could play lobs maybe for hours just to win. I don't know. I remember we had a few battles when we were completely kids.”

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According to Medvedev, he did not have the strength and weapons in his game as a junior to finish points.

“I was always on practice trying to play aggressive, maybe going to the net and stuff like this. Then there was a match going, I started to do it, I'm losing 3-0, the match is up to four, the set. I'm like, ‘No, back to lobs’,” Medvedev recalled in 2020. “I always hated to lose. Maybe even the better mentality for a kid would be to try to stick to his game plan or something like this. At the same time it's always good when you want to win also.”

As Medvedev and Rublev grew older and began to advance through the pro ranks, their relationship developed, too. Being a fly on the wall when they banter back and forth would be like a front-row seat to a comedy show.

"Andrey gets really, really angry if you call him Jannik because he looks like Jannik Sinner a little bit," Medvedev said during the break in play during the Covid-19 pandemic. "During this Australian Open he comes into the locker room and I said, 'Hi Jannik, how are you?' He got angry, he [went] away for 10 minutes, came back 10 minutes later, and goes, 'You are Davydenko then!'"

<a href=''>Daniil Medvedev</a> and <a href=''>Andrey Rublev</a> at practice together in Monte-Carlo.
Medvedev and Rublev at practice in Monte-Carlo. Photo: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
When together, Medvedev and Rublev are always having fun. Sometimes, they are on the same side of that fun. Other times, it is at the other’s expense. But that camaraderie has expanded beyond friendship. Rublev is the godfather of Medvedev’s first child, who was born last October.

“He's very kind,” Medvedev said of Rublev. “He's religious, so that's important to be a godfather. So it was kind of an easy decision.”

“Obviously we built our relationship because of tennis,” Rublev said. “But now it's already bigger than tennis. We know each other, I don't know, since we were six maybe or something.

“We have a great relationship. He's super honest, super relaxed. It's super easy to communicate with him. Very humble. At the same time he's really, really funny. Then when you spend time with him, you always have fun.”

But on Wednesday, that relationship will not prevent the stars from doing everything in their power to reach the US Open semi-finals. Medvedev takes a 5-2 Lexus ATP Head2Head series lead into the clash, as well as an edge in big-match experience.

The 27-year-old won the 2021 US Open and is 6-1 in major quarter-finals. What might be surprising is that Rublev has actually been to the quarter-finals at Grand Slam tournaments more often — eight times — but has lost them all. When Medvedev has been able to buckle down in the highest-pressure moments and rely on his pesky baseline game, Rublev has struggled to avoid spiraling out of control with unforced errors.

But the 25-year-old has won two of their past three meetings and will try to secure the biggest breakthrough of his career after earlier this season claiming his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo. As close as Medvedev and Rublev are, that will not matter inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It's great to have someone like this on tour because sometimes it can be not easy. You travel, travel, travel. To have a friend like this is great. Not much more to add,” Medvedev said. “But again, on the court we both want to win. We are not going to be friends in two days.”

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