Grand Slam tournament winners Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams withdrew from their tuneup tournaments, their focus already on the Australian Open, well before Alexander Zverev tweaked his back in the second set of his must-win ATP Cup match against Daniil Medvedev.
He left the court for treatment Saturday and returned, taking the match to three sets before Medvedev finally converted to secure Russia’s win over Germany and a spot in the final.
No. 4-ranked Medvedev lifted when Zverev started to struggle but he got tight in the end, twice double-faulting on match point before serving out for 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. Andrey Rublev had earlier beaten Jan-Lennard Struff 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
“Crazy match,” Medvedev said. “Happy to win even if many things I didn’t like.
“Most important thing is to win for the country and be in the final.”
Russia will meet Italy in the final after Fabio Fognini beat Pablo Carreno 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 and Matteo Berrettini swept Roberto Bautista 6-3, 7-5 to account for 2020 runner-up Spain.
Rafael Nadal didn’t play for Spain during the week because of lower back soreness but did practice and is expected to be OK for the Australian Open, where he’s aiming for a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title.
Zverev had helped Germany to a 2-1 quarterfinal win over defending champion Serbia, rebounding from a narrow loss to top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the singles with a victory in the deciding doubles.
But in the semis, his movement and serve slowed after getting a medical timeout for treatment in the second set.
Medvedev rallied and set up victory with a service break in penultimate game, and Zverev shattered a racket in frustration.
“It helped me he started moving slower, serving slower in the second set,” Medvedev said. “I felt like in the beginning of the third, I could stay in front and get the match done easy. But in the heat of the match, he started feeling better. I had to stay in it as much as I could.”