“The ATP handled the season really well” – An interview with Russian Daniil Medvedev
RIYADH – “The thing about Djokovic and Nadal is that on their bad days, they still play great tennis”.
For the rest, that large group of players with less than 20 Grand Slams, which includes former number one Daniil Medvedev, it’s not like that.
When they have a bad day, they usually pay for it saying goodbye to the tournament.
The Russian spends much of the interview with CLAY with a smile and a good attitude. Whether he has to talk about someone who has beaten him eight times like Novak Djokovic, or the final he incredibly lost after leading two sets and a break up in the third to Rafael Nadal in Australia 2022. He becomes a little more serious when talking about the war imposed by Russia in Ukraine, and the laughter returns when he refers about his three-months-old daughter. In fact, his eyes also sparkle.
“I want to show them life, for sure I want to show them different sports like racing, tennis, soccer. Or maybe they won’t like sports, so I’m gonna show them different museums, arts, singers,” he tells CLAY in the heritage city of Diriyah, in the run-up to the exhibition tournament that kicks off this Thursday in Saudi Arabia’s capital area.
He speaks in the plural. Surely he wants to give at least one brother or sister to her first-born.
– Do you expect new Grand Slam champions for 2023?
– When the Big Four was there, there were still new champions sometimes, like Stan (Wawrinka), like Marin (Cilic), Andy (Murray) himself did it multiple times. We can expect that any year, specially with Novak and Rafa getting a little bit older, even there are still amazing and winning a lot of tournaments.
– Why Djokovic and Nadal remain so relevant and why younger generations had failed to unbalance them at all?
– Is tough to say if it’s mentally or purely a tennis issue… They are just stronger than any of us. By saying that I mean that all of us can beat them in some matches, yeah. Even looking my head to head with Novak. I’ve beaten him four or five times (Djokovic leads it by 8-4). But if you look at the history of tennis, there is nobody close to them. In terms of Grand Slams, no one even close. Look at a big legend like Pete Sampras, he’s got half of the Slams of them. How do they do it? I don’t know, they are just the bests.
– Do you feel something different when you face them? Any unlike feeling than when you have in front any other player?
– The biggest difference is that when they have a bad day, they still play really good. When we have a bad day, we play a little bit worse and we are capable of losing against some players maybe they would not loose. That’s the biggest difference, and that has been the case since they were young. If you look through statistics their winning percentage has always been high. If you look mine when I was 20 years old, I was not even on the tour. Novak was already winning a lot of matches. We can talk about them for a long time and we can only say good things to be honest.
– How would you rate your 2022 season?
– Not too bad, not too good. It has been worse than my three seasons before. ‘19, ‘20 and ‘21, even in ‘20 that we had COVID, so it’s bit tough to compare, but there I managed to win Bercy and the ATP Finals which was amazing. ‘21 was probably the best year of my career, and if Novak hadn’t won three Grand Slams, I would have been number one a little bit earlier. But I’m still ranked 7 in the world, If played just a little bit better in Turin I could have finish 6th. I still had some good tournaments, some good matches. I wasn’t lucky in certain moments; Turin was the biggest example. The last and most important ATP event of the year for me was terrible, but the matches were quite good. I’m gonna try to be better next year.
– With some perspective, do you feel that the 2022 Australian Open final stopped the ride you were having?
– It’s possible, it’s possible, but you will never know. Maybe I would win it, and I would feel satisfied with a second Grand Slam, enough to make the rest of the season even worst. Well, it couldn’t be worst with a Grand Slam, but I can never know. For sure loosing was not easy, I took some time to get rid of the emotions I had, coming against the crowd was not easy. It’s a little too far to look back already, but during the season I felt like ok, I’m not thinking about the Australian Open anymore, I’m thinking about the next tournaments. I like, in general, to think more about the future, not to much about the past. Maybe that final was the explanation, but now I’m working hard for next season and I wanna see what it brings to me.
– What would you suggest to the All England Club and ATP ahead of this year’s Wimbledon? If the war continues and the political sanctions on Russia remain in place, I don’t think you would want to miss another Grand Slam just for being a Russian athlete.
– To be honest I think ATP handled the situation really well. I’m not talking about Wimbledon particularly, but in terms of the year itself. I have to trust in ATP structure. Every structure can be broken in any moment and we can never know if it’s good or not. So far I like the ATP structure, but I’m not saying in 5 years maybe it’s gonna be something completely different for the tennis world, we never know. About the All England Club, I can only say I love Wimbledon, I was really disappointed that I could’t play this year, and I’m hoping to comeback there. That’s the only Slam that I haven’t done quarterfinals. I still like grass; I hope to play good in Wimbledon, I hope I can come back there one day.
– Was there any extra preassure and stress for Russian tennis players this year because of the war?
– I don’t like to talk about there is extra pressure because for sure a lot of people in the world, not only in Russia and Ukraine, suffer. There are a lot more difficult problems than what we have. But we are still humans and we deal with our problems that for some people would feel like minor problems, and for other, major problems. It’s how the world works. If I speak about myself, I do what I can: practice hard, play tennis, spend time with my family when I’m away from tennis, and those are some things that I can control. I try to do my best when I dedicate to them.
– What changes have you experienced after becoming a father?
– Definitely it changes your life routine. If you manage to do it well, if you control the stress, which is not easy, it doesn’t changes too much. About the tennis calendar, I don’t know what might change yet. I’ve only played three tournaments as a father, one of them my daughter was there with my wife, because we could get there by car, we didn’t want her to travel by plane. I’m looking forward to this chapter of my life, I like it even if it’s brings some problems to my tennis, which I doubt, because I think it can only bring me positive vibes. I’m happy than I’m a father.
– Can you sleep as much as before?
– I would thank my wife, but yeah, I can sleep quite a lot. She sleeps a little bit less, but I’m trying to help as much as I can.
– Alexander Bublik said that he does not want his son to become a tennis player. What would you do with your daughter if she wants to play the game as a pro?
– He said this? Why? I wonder why. Did he say the reason?
– Not exactly. He was forced by his father to become a tennis player and he said he will tell his son to become whatever the kid is good at.
– What if his son tells him at the age of 6: ‘I want to play tennis’. Will he force him to not play tennis? I don’t want to force my children to do anything, I want to show them life, for sure I want to show them different sports I like. I like racing, tennis, soccer. Or maybe they not gonna like sports, so I’m gonna show them different museums, arts, singers. And when they get into something because is very important to like what you do, otherwise your life is not gonna be easy, maybe we are going to try to see If we can bring them there.
– Talking about football, who’s going to win the World Cup?
– If you ask me now, I would say France, but that was not my candidate before the World Cup because they were losing all the Nations League matches. But now they see pretty confident, what I don’t see in other teams. I would bet on them. But in this World Cup we have seen so many surprises, that’s why we actually love the World Cup. I told my friends before the match of Morocco that they were going to beat Spain.
– What’s your opinion about the Davis Cup? The Finals did not generate much attention this year.
– They didn’t? I don’t know, I was not there. If we ask the Canadian team, I bet they are just as happy as if they had won it 10 years ago. It’s the first Davis Cup for that country. Is still a big competition, we saw a lot of top players playing it throughout the year. I think the final week is though, everybody knows it. Again, talking about my 2022, playing the Davis the year before was not easy because I had just two weeks to prepare a long ’22 season. We prepare the season during December and I played the Finals on December 5th. Then you need a week for pure rest, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to play tennis. So, I think the calendar needs to be changed, which is a really tough discussion with the ATP because there is not much time available. Rather than that, I like the format of the new Davis Cup and I think it has great future still.
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