The Whirlwind of a Rising Daniil Medvedev


Watching Daniil Medvedev converse is like watching a twister from inside Dorothy’s farmhouse in “The Wizard of Oz.” His ideas whirl at such a fast clip that you don’t even have time to run to a storm cellar.

Then it turns into clear: Medvedev, the world No. 2 and winner of this yr’s United States Open, solutions questions a little bit like he performs tennis — quick and livid, seemingly with out stopping to take a breath.

“A very powerful factor is that I’m making an attempt to be myself on the courtroom,” he stated on a video chat from Paris when informed that his friends have described him as a chess grasp, a genius and an octopus. “I’m simply making an attempt to play good tennis and win matches. Then I let different folks determine what they assume.”

In September, Medvedev, 25, of Russia, served as the final word spoiler when he upset the world No. 1, Novak Djokovic, 6-4, 6-4, 6-Four to win his first main on the U.S. Open. Djokovic had already received the Australian and French Opens and Wimbledon in 2021, and a win on the U.S. Open would have made him simply the sixth singles participant, and third man, to seize the Grand Slam. Medvedev’s win additionally denied Djokovic a record-breaking 21st profession main. As a substitute, he, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are nonetheless tied with 20 majors apiece.

“He has positively improved so much, and the Grand Slam win on the U.S. Open didn’t come as a shock to me,” Djokovic stated. “He has an incredible serve, and he hits his spots within the field extremely nicely. That’s the most important weapon of his sport, indubitably.

“Then, after all, that backhand may be very flat, and he’s simply as sturdy as a wall from that aspect,” Djokovic added. “He simply doesn’t miss. And he’s improved his forehand so much. He’s very skilled and really sensible on the courtroom. He’s sport savvy. He understands the right way to use the courtroom, the right way to place himself when he’s defending, when he’s attacking. His internet sport has improved as nicely, so he doesn’t hesitate to return ahead. These days he’s grow to be a extra all-around participant, extra full and, in consequence, he’s a Grand Slam champion.”

Medvedev is making an attempt to defend his championship on the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, which begins Sunday and has moved from London to Turin, Italy, this yr. Final yr, Medvedev beat Alexander Zverev, Djokovic, Diego Schwartzman, Nadal and Dominic Thiem to seize the title.

When Medvedev first ascended to No. 2 in March, it was, largely, as a result of he received his final 10 matches of 2020 and his first 10 of 2021. He was lastly stopped by Djokovic within the Australian Open last in February.

“Daniil has perfected the sport that he’s taking part in that not many gamers can play,” stated the fourth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has misplaced to Medvedev six of the eight occasions they’ve performed. “I name him ‘octopus’ for a purpose. He’s simply capable of get balls that not many individuals are capable of.”

It’s odd, then, that Medvedev continually refers to his flagging self esteem.

“There was a second after I was not assured in myself,” he stated. “I used to be doubting a number of issues about my bodily talents, my tennis talents. I used to be doubtful, which is what tennis is all about. Then I received these two superb tournaments [2020 Rolex Paris Masters and Nitto ATP Finals], beat a variety of prime gamers, acquired a lift of confidence the place I used to be like, ‘OK, I imagine in myself. There isn’t any purpose to not imagine anymore.’”

Medvedev was by no means a prodigy. He was not ranked No. 1 within the juniors, by no means even went past the third spherical at any of the foremost junior tournaments. However that didn’t cease him from aspiring to play among the many greatest.

“I used to be by no means even within the quarters of a slam,” Medvedev stated. “However whenever you come to those Grand Slams, irrespective of in the event you’re ranked 30, 20 or I believe I used to be 13 on the max, you see all these prime gamers that you simply take a look at on TV and so they really do regular issues. They eat, they take a bathe, they go play matches, they’ll even giggle with you juniors. And also you really really feel in a means that you simply belong with this group.”

Earlier than Medvedev ever performed tennis, he stated he was recognized within the household for his mood tantrums round the home. His two older sisters, Julia and Elena, had been powerless to manage him.

“I keep in mind after I was Four years outdated, I used to be a little bit bit ‘wanty,’” Medvedev stated with a chuckle. “Like if I wished one thing I might begin crying. I believe that’s the half that would typically present on the tennis courtroom, particularly after I was youthful, as a result of the factor is, what would you like on the tennis courtroom? You need to win.”

Medevedev has proved his petulance greater than as soon as in his professional profession. In 2016, he was defaulted from a Challenger match in Savannah, Ga., for suggesting that the chair umpire was favoring his opponent based mostly on race.

Then, through the 2019 U.S. Open, Medvedev was booed by the New York crowd throughout a match towards Feliciano Lopez when he acquired a warning from the umpire for tossing his racket after which snatching a towel from a ball man. Because the followers roared their disapproval, Medvedev tugged on his ear, imploring them to proceed.

Then, throughout his post-match interview, Medvedev informed the gang: “Thanks all, guys, as a result of your power tonight gave me the win. If you weren’t right here, guys, I might in all probability lose the match. So I would like all of you to know, whenever you sleep tonight, I received due to you.”

The gang responded by booing even louder. Medvedev received his subsequent three matches earlier than he was crushed by Nadal within the last.

Simply earlier than the beginning of the Paris Masters in October, Medvedev and Djokovic had a two-hour observe session on the Mouratoglou Academy on the French Riviera. It was the primary time the 2 had seen one another since their U.S. Open last in September. They chatted for 15 minutes after the observe, however neither one talked about their encounter in New York.

“It’s regular, irrespective of in the event you lose or win you don’t discuss these matches as a result of there’s going to be one loser who’s not going to need to discuss it,” stated Medvedev, who additionally misplaced to Djokovic final Sunday within the last of the Paris Masters. “And after I win I additionally don’t need to say, ‘Hey, keep in mind …’”

When Medvedev was about 14, he stated, he learn the e book “Eragon” by Christopher Paolini. He was so captivated by the fantastical story about magic, glory and energy that he learn all 528 pages in three nights, on the identical time imagining he was a part of that world.

Now that he’s enmeshed in his personal fantastical world, Medvedev refuses to experience it.

“I don’t look again an excessive amount of in my life,” he stated. “I like to consider the current and the longer term greater than the previous, even when the previous is sweet. I exploit it extra as confidence, to say, ‘Wow, I managed to win, to beat Novak within the last of a slam.’ I’m going to make use of it extra if I’ve doubt in my profession, which may occur.

“In the event you lose first spherical or quarters of some tournaments, possibly two in a row, you’re at all times going to have questions, like ‘Am I going to have the ability to come again?’ That’s when you possibly can look again at this match and say to your self, ‘Wow, it’s attainable.’”

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