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 12 months’s United States Open, solutions questions just a little like he performs tennis — quick and livid, seemingly with out stopping to take a breath.
“An important factor is that I’m making an attempt to be myself on the court docket,” he stated on a video chat from Paris when advised 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 resolve what they suppose.”
In September, Medvedev, 25, of Russia, served as the last word spoiler when he upset the world No. 1, Novak Djokovic, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to win his first main on the U.S. Open. Djokovic had already gained 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 twenty first profession main. As an alternative, he, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are nonetheless tied with 20 majors apiece.
“He has positively improved rather a lot, 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 properly. That’s the most important weapon of his recreation, unquestionably.
“Then, after all, that backhand could 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 rather a lot. He’s very skilled and really sensible on the court docket. He’s recreation savvy. He understands the way to use the court docket, the way to place himself when he’s defending, when he’s attacking. His web recreation has improved as properly, so he doesn’t hesitate to come back ahead. These days he’s change into 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 12 months. Final 12 months, 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 gained his final 10 matches of 2020 and his first 10 of 2021. He was lastly stopped by Djokovic within the Australian Open closing in February.
“Daniil has perfected the sport that he’s enjoying that not many gamers can play,” stated the fourth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has misplaced to Medvedev six of the eight instances they’ve performed. “I name him ‘octopus’ for a motive. 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 once I was not assured in myself,” he stated. “I used to be doubting just a few issues about my bodily talents, my tennis talents. I used to be doubtful, which is what tennis is all about. Then I gained these two wonderful tournaments [2020 Rolex Paris Masters and Nitto ATP Finals], beat loads of high gamers, acquired a lift of confidence the place I used to be like, ‘OK, I consider in myself. There isn’t any motive to not consider 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 main 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 while you come to those Grand Slams, irrespective of when you’re ranked 30, 20 or I believe I used to be 13 on the max, you see all these high gamers that you just take a look at on TV and so they truly do regular issues. They eat, they take a bathe, they go play matches, they will even chuckle with you juniors. And also you truly really feel in a manner that you just belong with this group.”
Earlier than Medvedev ever performed tennis, he stated he was identified within the household for his mood tantrums round the home. His two older sisters, Julia and Elena, have been powerless to manage him.
“I bear in mind once I was 4 years previous, I used to be just a little bit ‘wanty,’” Medvedev stated with a chuckle. “Like if I wished one thing I might begin crying. I believe that’s the half that might typically present on the tennis court docket, particularly once I was youthful, as a result of the factor is, what would you like on the tennis court docket? 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 primarily based on race.
Then, in the course of 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 advised the group: “Thanks all, guys, as a result of your power tonight gave me the win. If you weren’t right here, guys, I might most likely lose the match. So I need all of you to know, while you sleep tonight, I gained due to you.”
The gang responded by booing even louder. Medvedev gained his subsequent three matches earlier than he was overwhelmed by Nadal within the closing.
Simply earlier than the beginning of the Paris Masters in October, Medvedev and Djokovic had a two-hour follow 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 closing in September. They chatted for quarter-hour after the follow, however neither one talked about their encounter in New York.
“It’s regular, irrespective of when 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 closing of the Paris Masters. “And once I win I additionally don’t need to say, ‘Hey, bear in mind …’”
When Medvedev was about 14, he stated, he learn the ebook “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 closing of a slam.’ I’m going to make use of it extra if I’ve doubt in my profession, which might occur.
“If you happen to lose first spherical or quarters of some tournaments, perhaps 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 doable.’”