Medvedev, champion in Miami: the “hard court specialist” is challenged by clay and grass
The best in Miami, the best in the US mini season, the best of the year. Daniil Medvedev is the number one in the race to Turin with an impressive streak in 2023: five finals in a row with four titles, and a total of 30 wins in 33 matches so far this year. Roger Federer, in 2006, was the last to reach that many deciding matches before the European clay swing.
“Confidence is everything. Last year I didn’t have it in big tournaments and big moments, but this year I feel much better and I got it back,” Medvedev said at the Miami Open awards ceremony after beating Jannik Sinner 7-5, 6-3.
“We all enjoyed your semifinal with Carlos (Alcaraz), it was amazing. I was lucky, because I saw it lying on the bed while you were running all over the place”, added the Russian, with that particular style that makes his speeches funnier.
Medvedev arrived at the 2022 Australian Open final as favorite against Rafael Nadal, after having beaten Novak Djokovic at the US Open, the previous Grand Slam. He had a two-set lead, and a break in the third set. Nadal turned it around and from then on Medvedev was not the same player.
He was hit by the downturn of losing a major title in such a way. He became world number one thanks to his great previous season, and also to the Serbian’s absence that year in Melbourne and the North American Masters 1000, but that leadership did not affirm his confidence.
“Losing was not easy, it took me some time to get rid of the emotions I had… Maybe that final was the explanation (of the irregular 2022) but now I’m working hard for what’s next,” Daniil Medvedev told CLAY during the pre-season in Riyadh.
Today Medvedev is that player of 2021: favorite in almost all his matches, dangerous with his serve, and one of the best counter-punchers on the circuit. A wall that returns everything.
A “hard court specialist”, as defined by himself when he complained about the slowness of the Indian Wells’ courts: “It’s a fucking disgrace to the sport. This freakin court, what a shame to call it a hard court…I’m a hard court specialist and this is not what they say. We should be banned from playing here”.
Despite his hatred of the conditions in California, he managed to make it all the way to the end of the tournament. He lost to Alcaraz. Then more speed in Miami suited his game better, and he unapologetically ratified his stellar moment. “If the speed of the court here holds up, I’d love to come back next year,” he joked to the tournament director, former number 4 in the world, James Blake.
“Now comes the clay season, let’s see how you do there,” Sinner commented to him at the awards, alluding to the Miami champion’s hatred of clay.
“Am I going to play clay season? Yeah, sure,” he joked in the Tennis Channel studio: “If you lose early in Miami, you can have better preparation on clay.” Medvedev says that only on Friday he will stain his socks with orange dust, and four to five days later he will make his debut in Monte Carlo.
“The first tournament will be very tough. I’m already preparing myself mentally not lose my mind and be calm. Maybe I will play very badly in Monaco, maybe not, because my confidence is at its peak. I can be dangerous on clay, but I have to have a good day. If I start matches badly, it’s hard for me to turn them around,” he reflected.
Medvedev will have to overcome his dislike for slow courts if he wants to fight to be the best in the world again in a competition that looks very fierce with Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz. On the clay tour he will have the chance to score points that are not on his radar, unlike his direct competitors. With that, he will be able to hit the grass well, because in this European summer, Medvedev will not spend his time on grass playing golf like last year.
Wimbledon confirmed this week that it will open the doors to Russians and Belarusians, excluded in 2022 due to Russia’s invasion in Ukraine. Faced with the sanctioning of athletes solely on the basis of their nationality, the ATP and WTA decided not to award ranking points. The unusual thing was that a Moscow-born, Elena Rybakna, was the women’s champion.
Such abnormal stories had 2022. This year, Medvedev is expectant about how people will react: “It’s something I can’t control.” The All England Tennis Club will not allow any tennis player with Russian sponsoring brands to participate. This is not the case for Medvedev.
The former world number one leaves Florida with a milestone: he reached the finals of every big hard court tournament. He takes home the crystal vase of the Miami Masters 1000. Like few others, a “normal trophy”, because most of the ones he accumulates on his shelf have very particular designs and shapes: the Doha falcon, the “pirate ship” of Dubai, the Parisian winter tree of Paris Bercy.
By the way, none of them is repeated. The 19 titles the Russian has won have been in different events, in different cities. He is a tennis player who likes to explore the world: “It’s true, although I would love to defend a title sometime. I like all my trophies, that’s why I would like to win one for the second time”.
Challenges for the “specialist” on hard courts.
ILLUSTRATION BY @DOTDOTENNIS