The day before their showdown in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final, Daniil Medvedev posted on social media a photo of himself alongside Andrey Rublev from their junior days. Medvedev was holding the winner's trophy, Rublev the runners-up – neither player looked overjoyed.
Fast forward however many years later and there was plenty for Medvedev to smile about on Saturday evening as the Russian third seed produced a masterclass to defeat his long-time friend, rival, and Davis Cup teammate 6-2, 6-2 and clinch the Dubai title.
It cements Medvedev as the hottest player on the ATP Tour, victory stretching his winning run to 14 matches and ensuring a third title from his three most recent tournaments following triumphs in Rotterdam and Doha.
"The way I played these three tournaments was top level," said Medvedev, who ended Novak Djokovic's unbeaten start to the season in the semi-finals. "Especially Dubai was probably the best out of the three.
"I was really playing well. Beating Novak and Andrey, the scoreline I managed to do, the confidence I managed to do it, was amazing. So right now I'm feeling amazing."
This sensational run of form also emphatically confirms Medvedev's return to the peak of his powers after a curious dip at the end of last season, and a slow start to this year, saw the former world No 1 drop out of the top 10.
Forget the rankings, Medvedev is the best player in the world right now and he has a great opportunity to surge back towards the top when the hardcourt season continues in the United States this month. With a third-round exit at Indian Wells and a quarter-final in Miami – both Masters 1000 events – last year, the world No 7 doesn't have all that many ranking points to defend and will be aiming to capitalise.
If Medvedev even comes close to replicating his performance from the Dubai final, he's going to take some serious stopping. The 2021 US Open champion was superb from start to finish and never gave Rublev a moment's rest.
On his own service games, Medvedev lost just eight points, while he bullied Rublev's second serve to win 15 of 21 points. Over the course of the match, Medvedev hit 27 winners set against only six unforced errors. It was ruthless and flawless – basically, vintage Medvedev.
"After the Australian Open, tough loss, three sets to love, I was feeling bad," said Medvedev. "I was doubting myself before Rotterdam. I was not feeling good at all ... But that's how tennis is. I managed to keep some confidence going and I'm really happy about it."
For Rublev it brings to an end a rollercoaster title defence. The 2022 Dubai champion was staring into the abyss in the second round when he faced five match point against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, then in the next two rounds he claimed his first career victories over Botic Van De Zandschulp and Olympic gold medallist Alexander Zverev. Ultimately, though, Medvedev proved a step too far.
"I think in general it was a really positive week, Rublev, 25, said. "The match that I won against Davidovich [Fokina], being a set and 6-1 down on tiebreak, something I never done in my life before.
"Every match was a positive thing. I think the week was really good. My first final of the season and we just started the season. Hopefully it's the beginning. Hopefully I will keep practicing, keep improving because there is so many things I feel that I have to improve. I'm super motivated and super excited for upcoming weeks.
"Of course, it's not easy when you're losing in a final, but I'm really looking forward and I'm really positive now for the work that my team done and for the sacrifices they are doing to me.
"I'm super motivated now for America swing, to go full there, to see what's going to happen."