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Tennis: Healthy competition key to Russian success, says Kafelnikov

FILE PHOTO: Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia speaks as he is inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, U.S., July 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

(Reuters) - Russians Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov are ranked in the top 15 of men’s ATP Tour and the healthy competition between among the trio is helping them excel, according to their compatriot and former world number one Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

The 24-year-old Medvedev is the oldest of the three and ranked the highest at fifth, while Rublev, 22, is world number 14. Khachanov is a year older than Rublev and placed a spot below in the rankings.

In 1999, Kafelnikov became the first Russian man to reach the top of the tennis world rankings. Marat Safin matched the feat the following year.

“When I became a top-10 player, Marat was six years younger than me and he wanted to catch up with me. So we had healthy competition between each other and one was driven by another,” Kafelnikov said on Friday’s episode of Tennis United.

“We’ve got three guys who are in the top 20 and all three are competing with each other. That’s the reason why tennis in Russia is very successful at the moment.”

Kafelnikov won two Grand Slam Singles titles - the 1996 French Open and the Australian Open in 1999 - and won gold in men’s singles at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Medvedev, Rublev and Khachanov have known each other from their days as junior players and engaged in banter during the Tennis United episode, which was started during the sport’s forced shutdown due to COVID-19.

“It’s a healthy competition because they are still friends,” said Safin, who won the U.S. Open in 2000 before claiming the Australian Open in 2005.

“They go out for dinner together and they are very nice guys, which is good. And they are ready to learn, which is also good.”

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by William Mallard

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