Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev go head-to-head in a blockbuster ATP Cup clash on Saturday when Serbia and Russia face off in the semi-finals.
World No. 2, Djokovic and world No. 5, Medvedev meet in the second rubber of the tie, following the opening rubber between Karen Khachanov and Dusan Lajovic.
Depending on the outcome of the earlier match, one of Medvedev or Djokovic will get the chance to wrap up the tie for his country, while the other will need to win to keep his team alive and force a deciding doubles rubber.
Djokovic owns a 3-2 advantage in his overall head-to-head against Medvedev, but the rising Russian has won their last two meetings, scoring three-set victories over the Serbian great in Monte Carlo and Cincinnati last year.
“I like to play Novak. The matches with him are something special,” Medvedev said. “He’s one of the three best players in history, so of course it was great to beat him a few times, but every match is a new one. Every match is so tough with him and that’s how you progress, so I like to play against these top players.”
Medvedev, of course, has become a top player himself following a sensational 2019. The 23-year-old Russian claimed four titles, including back-to-back Masters 1000 crowns in Cincinnati and Shanghai, and made his first Grand Slam final at the US Open, where he lost in five sets to Rafael Nadal after fighting back from two-sets down. He made six consecutive finals between Washington and Shanghai in an impressive spell of consistency and sustained quality.
The Russian appeared to run out of steam as the year wound to a close, losing his last four matches, including all three round-robin matches in his debut appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals, but recharged and re-energized by the off season, he has made a 4-0 start to the new year, beating Fabio Fognini, John Isner, Casper Ruud and Diego Schwartzman in his ATP Cup singles campaign so far.
Like Medvedev, Djokovic is also 4-0 in singles matches, having seen off Kevin Anderson, Gael Monfils, Cristian Garin and Denis Shapovalov.
The world No. 2 has dropped just the one set in this tournament, against Shapovalov in the quarter finals. Djokovic got broken as he served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, and had to save a break point at 5-5, but the 16-time major winner raised his game again in the tie break to fend off Shapovalov’s challenge and secure Serbia their semi-final berth.
“It was an amazing match. One of the closest matches I’ve played against Denis. It was very even match. He played fantastic, very aggressive, served great. We fought both until the last shot,” Djokovic said.
The world No. 2 is set to face another stern examination on Saturday as he bids to end a two-match losing streak against Daniil Medvedev.
Serbia vs Russia is live from Sydney on Saturday, 11 January from 11:00am local time/ 12:00am GMT