The Russians Are Coming

delrayteensBoxing has seen a wave of incredible talents arise out of Russia and the eastern European nations in the last five years. Vasyl Lomachenko, Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev and Artur Beterbiev have electrified boxing with their sensational skills and talents.

It suddenly appears that tennis could be on the verge of a similar Russian revolution, with a brigade of young male players apparently on the verge of becoming elite players.

Nineteen year old Alexander Zverev (based in Germany) is the most popular of the young Russians, already with an ATP title (St.Petersburg) under his belt, a top 20 ranking, and several stunning performances against the ATP elite. The likes of Rafael Nadal, John McEnroe and Roger Federer have already praised Zverev as a future No. 1 player and major title winner.

Following closely behind the lead of Zverev are two other very impressive, hard-hitting prospects who are both arresting a lot of attention with their heavy hitting and quality results.

Karen Khachanov is 20-years-old and ranked around 50 in the world. Double K names Del Potro and Safin as his tennis idols and he has shown a similar extraordinary ball striking capability that has already garnered an ATP singles title (Chengdu) and thirteen match wins last year. Khachanov has wins over Viktor Troicki, Roberto Bautista-Agut, Janko Tipsarevic, Alberto Ramos-Vinolas, Sergey Stakhovsky and also a junior Roland Garros win over Nick Kyrgios in 2013.

Another player who has emerged in recent months is Daniil Medvedev, who cracked the top 100 late last year. Medvedev earned his first ATP points as a fifteen year old in 2011 by qualifying at a Moscow Futures. But this year Medvedev has made a giant leap, winning a set from Novak Djokovic in Davis Cup last week before retiring later in the match with cramps. Medvedev showed that fine result was no fluke by dominating Fernando Verdasco yesterday in Montpelier 63 63. The spectacular Medvedev showed everything against the Spanish veteran lefty, including firing winners off both wings, accurate service winners, and deft touch on volleys, drops shots and also swing volleys. Also Medvedev had a natural cool on the court, looking perfectly comfortable with the pressure. It was Verdasco who showed constant facial expressions of discomfort and pressure.

Based in France (he speaks Russian, English and French), Medvedev (no relation for former Roland Garros finalist Andrei Medvedev) is coached by Jean-Rene Lisnard, a former ATP pro from France, Gilles Cervara and a former top ranked junior Julien Jeanpierre. Already, Medvedev has career wins over Kukushkin, Troicki, Kozlov (at Wimbledon qualies last year), Zeballos and a junior win at Prato over Alexander Zverev.

All three of these mighty Russians look like possible, if not probable, top ten players – and that may be making a conservative estimate of their potentials.

Slightly behind this talented trio is another highly-touted Russian – Andrey Rublev. This nineteen-year-old first emerged two years ago in 2015 where as a wildcard, Rublev beat Pablo Carreno-Busta in Miami in three sets. Then at 2015 US Open Rublev lost in four sets to Kevin Anderson. Rublev posted an 8-13 ATP Tour record in 2015 but regressed last year with a 3-5 record, though his ranking actually climbed last year (174-156) despite falling outside the top 200 for seven weeks.

Rublev won his first ATP title – in doubles in 2015 – while paired with Dmitry Tursunov in Moscow (youngest ATP doubles winner since Nadal in 2004 in Chennai). Another career highlight for Rublev was clinching a 3-2 Davis Cup win for Russia vs Spain by beating no. 32 Pablo Andujar in 2015 Group 1. Rublev also has ITF junior wins over Hyeon Chung, Taylor Fritz, Stefan Kozlov, Quentin Halys, Tommy Paul, Noah Rubin, Alexander Zverev and Stefano Tsitsipas.

We all know the United States, Canada, Australia are looking very strong right now with excellent foundations of NEXT GEN players steadily rising up the ranks. But Russia, though not nearly as ballyhooed, could wind up in the mix or perhaps even, with Medvedev, Rublev and Khachanov continuing their fine play, as the leading tennis nation in a few years.

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  • catherine bell · February 18, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Kei at FO ?

    No – he’ll be injured before the final.

  • Hartt · February 18, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    I know that is always a possibility but maybe he will be more fortunate this time. He just won over Berlocq on the clay of Buenos Aires, so that is a good sign. He faces Dolgopolov in the final.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 18, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    Hartt: With all this equality talk in the culture I momentarily forgot sorry :) Certain players look better on the court and certain others off – millions of hours on court could have influence on a person’s off court personality -

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 18, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Can’t say Fish’s forehand was awful – the guy was a top junior and a solid ATP pro before he finally made that final push into the top ten – Fish was always very good and I think his forehand was always underrated and overly criticized – Was Edberg’s forehand awful? Of course not -

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 18, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Dan it’s all BS – Trump’s guy made a phone call to Russia and was forced out – Hillary made millions on a uranium deal with Russia and the biased crooked media said nothing – It’s all such an obscene bias and hostility against Trump because he is taking their power and they can’t handle that truth – They tried to shoehorn Hillary in and thought she was a lock but Trump shocked the world and saved USA -

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 18, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    No I won’t write it off – Dimitrov could be tired because of all the winning he’s done lately and Goffin is red hot right now – He barely beat Goffin last week and this week Goffin turned the tables – Both are top ten stars – I’m astounded by Goffin’s game and how effective he is for a featherweight of a little fella – Pound for pound Goffin could be the best player in the world –

  • Hartt · February 18, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Goffin is so impressive, especially for a smaller player. One of the commies for today’s match talked about the way he “floats” and then went on to say that there is not much of him. In a way, he reminds me of Aga, using accuracy and court smarts instead of power.

    With today’s win he moves to the top 10 spot. If he wins the tourney he goes to No. 7, passing players such as Federer and Cilic.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 18, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    Goffin could very well be the best pound for pound player in tennis – “Pound for pound” best boxer is a popular discussion topic in boxing for debating who is the best boxer regardless of weight – Goffin is that guy in tennis and the ATP guide says he weighs only 150 which surely is the lightest guy in the top ten – His play style is fascinating as he whips around the court like a dart and he has no trouble handling heavy power and changing the direction of the ball and he plays so intelligent and always the right percentage shots – You never see Goffin play or use a silly or stupid shot – Very poised and focused too – I first Biofiled Goffin in Newport about five years ago when he was around 50 in the world and 21 years old – Have to confess I did not see Goffin being top twenty – Obviously Goffin is a very special extraordinary player -

  • Andrew Miller · February 18, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    Nishikori vs Dolgo for Buenos Aires clay title that Nadal won several times. This is a good run for Kei. I don’t know of it will pay off but he wins one of these and suddenly clay season looks good to him.

    How good is Baliashvili? I like the American men chances to win the title in Memphis, but even with a home crowd you have two guys going for their first title. It should be a good one.

  • Andrew Miller · February 18, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    Fish FH was wobbly as heck. He remodeled it. So did Spades with Lansdorp. Really happenned. So did Tiafoe. It isn’t that it’s bad, just that it wasn’t holding up and he had to compensate for it. That’s why he had to change ot. Just like Kozlov did.

  • catherine bell · February 19, 2017 at 3:16 am


    The point I was making which began this topic was about the publicity stuff the WTA puts out and which presumably is the desired official face of women players.

    I also wondered if Kerber’s apparent thinness these days was anything to do with that.

    The nicest pic I saw of Angie recently was a snap of her and Djokovic holding the AO trophies before the tournament. Not sure why she was dressed as a Victorian governess but it was a casual and natural look – same for Djoko too :)

  • catherine bell · February 19, 2017 at 3:42 am

    Hartt –

    I get your comparison of Goffin and Radwanska but I feel if Aga had developed a bit more power to go with her accuracy and court smarts she’d’ve won a few more tournaments.

    I like Goffin but can’t see him doing more than entertaining us and lurking around the top 10. Which is a decent pro career.

  • Hartt · February 19, 2017 at 6:46 am

    Catherine, I agree with you about Aga and power. I like her a lot as a player and have been frustrated that she did not develop more power. Recently I came across an old interview with her sister’s former coach. In it he talked about Aga’s amazing control. He said if you woke her up at midnight and put her on the court she could immediately start hitting with that accuracy.

    A few days ago I would have agreed with you about Goffin but now am not so sure. If he wins Rotterdam he will be No. 7. I think he has a shot at being a No. 5 player, although I would be surprised if he won a Slam.

  • catherine bell · February 19, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Hartt –

    Yes – I’ve always been a bit puzzled about Radwanska – why she didn’t build herself up a little more and become a serious contender for the big prizes – she can’t be satisfied with that one W’don runner-up. Also I’m not sure how to take the stuff about her apparently not wanting to sacrifice her femininity – can’t really see a serious athlete thinking that. And I’m still curious about the short-lived Martina coaching.

    Glanced at my post above re WTA and glamour etc and noticed the bit about Angie and Djoko posing with AO trophies might suggest Djoko was dressed as a Victorian governess as well :) Of course not.
    The pic was on tennis.com I think. Angie looked really happy – too bad that didn’t last.

  • Andrew Miller · February 19, 2017 at 8:05 am

    Goffin looks in mirror, sees Davydenko without a gambler’s MO ;) or he’s ATP equivalent of Halep. I like him a lot.

  • Andrew Miller · February 19, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Boris is a ladies man and he’d love to coach Kerber. Only that I think Kerber has done unique things last year and should gut it out with her coach, PLAY DOUBLES!

  • catherine bell · February 19, 2017 at 9:53 am

    Andrew –

    You must have been reading my mind – I had Goffin as the mens’ equivalent of Simona but didn’t say so in case Dan dumped on me for being obsessed. But since he’s posted about Spadea I feel free.

    Boris is settled now I believe. I’m sure his current wife hopes so anyway.

    Simona and Angie should play doubles(not together)but that’s about as likely as Goffin and Halep playing mixed :)

    Angie will most likely stick to her coaching set up, persevere and hope things work out. My best wishes to her.

  • Andrew Miller · February 19, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Halep Kerber would be a good team, or if Halep could somehow get Hingis’ attention. Speaking of Boris Becker, he’s seemed to take a liking these days to saying things like Federer us greatest and Nadal is going to win the French. All this after he said earlier this year, on being let go by team Djokovic, that the Djokovic’s practice habits turned to mush after his French Open triumph, drawing a direct line between Djokovic’s coasting, possibly his attitude, and losses unbefitting of a dominant number one for the past five years.
    Either this is Boris Becker unplugged, which is standard Becker (which it is. Becker is outspoken for saying what he wants) or a I Told You So Novak, as in I told You You’d Regret Hiring that Crackpot and Firing Me and Your Results Aren’t What You and I Had Are They?
    I just find his elevation of past Djokovic foes amusing. Even though as a former champion Becker can probably read tea leaves pretty well, better than Wilander etc, it’s somewhat surprising and seems to me like he’s sending a message to Djokovic along the lines of, I Knew You’d Miss Me.

  • Hartt · February 19, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Regarding Aga and adding power the only thing I ever heard that sounded at all likely was that Aga worried that if she added muscle she would lose some of the attributes of her current game. This may be just speculation but at least it is a possible explanation.

    With Martina as coach I wonder if she wanted Aga to make some big changes in her game and when it came to the crunch Aga did not want to do that. Just a surmise on my part.

    Regarding Boris I imagine he is trying to get back in the spotlight by making these pronouncements. Bet he is not getting enough attention now that he is not coaching Novak.

  • catherine bell · February 19, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Hartt –

    I made that up about Boris coaching Angie, although I’m sure it’s crossed his mind – he could do quite well coaching a woman player, although he might view that as a bit of a comedown after Djoko.

    And Boris certainly likes the sound of his own voice.

    You’re probably right about Martina – not the meeting of two minds although maybe seemed a good idea at the time.

    Can’t see how extra strength could have diminished Radwanska’s game – maybe that mindset is part of the reason she hasn’t ultimately done better.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 19, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Catherine: Goffin “lurking around the top ten is a decent pro career”? I think lurking around top hundred is pretty decent but top ten is incredible especially for a featherweight guy like Goffin -

  • catherine bell · February 19, 2017 at 6:46 pm


    It was just British understatement :)

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