World No. 167 Roman Safiullin was the Russian hero on Sunday as he was the big reason why Russia beat France.
Safiullin, who is making his ATP Cup debut, surprised France’s Arthur Rinderknech 2-6 7-5 6-3 in the opening match of the tie.
After beating Rinderknech, Safiullin revealed Medvedev told him just to go out there and play his game without pressure.
“It feels great to win the first match, to get the point for the team and now we wait for Daniil to go out and show his tennis,” Safiullin said, per the ATP Cup website. “The second set was really tight and I tried to make as many balls as I could and put pressure on him.
“Before the match Daniil said to go out and play with no pressure, just to play my best and fight for every point.”
Safiullin came up big for Russia
World No. 2 Medvedev suffered a shock loss to Ugo Humbert in the second match of the tie so the doubles had to decide the winner.
In the doubles match, Safiullin and Medvedev beat Fabrice Martin and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-4 6-4 to give Russia victory.
Medvedev and Safiullin know each other very well and the world No. 2 once feared Safiullin.
“He was super tough to beat in juniors. I don’t think we’ve ever played as professionals, but when I knew that Roman was in my draw in juniors, I was shaking. We played a lot of finals, semi-finals, a lot of matches, some were like three-hour, three-set matches. A lot of fun,” Medvedev said of Safiullin.
“I practiced two times with Roman these last few days. We actually played quite well, trying to talk our way through. Of course, it’s never easy. I think what is good that we are going to have three opportunities.”
Russia is lacking Andrey Rublev, Aslan Karatsev and Karen Khachanov so Safiullin has to step up.