WASHINGTON, October 16, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Daniil Medvedev can be forgiven for pulling out of the ATP 250 VTB Kremlin Cup tournament in Moscow on Tuesday, citing fatigue, just two days after he won the Rolex Shanghai Masters in Shanghai, China. There’s no doubt about it: the 23-year-old Moscow native is not only the hottest professional tennis player on the ATP World Tour, he’s the hottest on the entire planet. Make no mistake, Medvedev, who has won three titles in the second half of 2019 – in Cincinnati, St. Petersburg and Shanghai, all since August – and played in six straight finals, is firing on all cylinders.
But even tennis players need their proper rest, right?
The Russian news agency Tass quoted Medvedev on Tuesday as saying that he felt “drained psychologically and physically” after winning the Shanghai Masters. He arrived home in Moscow on Monday, where he promptly signed hats and gave autographs to adoring fans to garner some goodwill among the hometown faithful.
The World No. 4 Medvedev leads the ATP Tour in most match victories this season (59), most wins on hard courts (46), most Masters 1000 triumphs (22), and he’s reached the finals of his last six consecutive tournaments going back to the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., in early August, and also including the Rogers Cup in Montreal, the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, the US Open, the St. Petersburg Open in Russia, and concluding with the Rolex Shanghai Masters in China. Medvedev began his remarkable in-form run ranked tenth and his current No. 4 ranking is a career-best mark.
I have a childish coach 😂👍🤔😂 pic.twitter.com/5ms2erB1tT
— Daniil Medvedev (@DaniilMedwed) October 13, 2019
“Everyone is talking that they need new guys, something new,” said Medvedev on Sunday, moments before he lifted the trophy after capturing the Rolex Shanghai Masters singles title. “So, I gave them something new.”
By winning convincingly and comprehensively over World No. 6 Alexander Zverev, 6-4, 6-1, which earned him his second consecutive ATP Tour Masters 1000 title after his Cincinnati triumph, Medvedev climbed ahead of World No. 3 Roger Federer into third place in the ATP Race To London with 5,875 points. He’s now 185 points better than the Swiss maestro.
“I don’t celebrate my wins, I just stay calm and do my job. Boom, done,” added Medvedev.
In a memorable week, in which Medvedev dominated Shanghai from first ball to last ball, in which he beat Cameron Norrie, Vasek Pospisil, Fabio Fognini and Stefanos Tsitsipas leading up to his championship victory over Zverev, he didn’t drop a set all tournament. Talk about being consistent, and the uniqueness of his game is best defined by how he targets his opponents’ weaknesses.
“I guess I can say that, well, here I looked invincible this week since I’m the winner,” said Medvedev exuding a sense of confidence without coming across as being full of himself.
“He bores his opponents into defeat,” said David Law, co-host of the Tennis Podcast on Monday. “He beats you with his mental toughness.”
Medvedev’s unorthodox game, which focuses on the essentials, is best described by Tennis.com’s Steve Tignor this way: “On his serve, he doesn’t waste time with an elaborate motion, or any motion at all, really; he just grabs the ball, throws it up in the air, and slams it down. On his ground strokes, he doesn’t add much spin or shape to the ball, or much polish to his shots; he shovels his backhand and swipes at his forehand, but he rarely misses either. Tactically, he doesn’t bother trying to change the direction of the ball; he just keeps hitting that locked-in crosscourt backhand until his opponent finally loses patience, and the point. Even the way Medvedev stands to receive serve – straight up and down, rocking back and forth slightly – looks casual and unassuming.”
Medvedev’s last three victories in Shanghai, against No 12 Fognini (quarterfinals), No. 7 Tsitsipas (semifinals) and No. 6 Zverev (final), came against opponents who have been ranked in the Top 10 this season.
While Medvedev now will take a much-deserved week off, after all, to recover from his fatigue, don’t be surprised if he’s back on court very soon. In fact, Medvedev is entered in next week’s ATP 500 event in Vienna, where he’s projected to be the top-seeded player in a talent-rich field. Then, he’s expected to play in the Paris Masters the week after. There’s still the Nitto ATP Finals in London next month, too. All things considered, it would be quite the crowning achievement if Medvedev were to leap ahead of Federer in the world rankings, and if he does, it would be a fitting conclusion to what has transformed into a very memorable season for the affable Russian star.
“Myself, making six in a row – including two Masters and one Grand Slam – is just something I could never dream of, to be honest,” said Medvedev. “But, I want to keep the momentum going. I hope I can make it to seven or eight.”
When Medvedev arrived for the Citi Open in August 2018, he was ranked No. 63 and, soon, lost in the second round to ninth-seeded Denis Shapovalov after receiving a wild card into the main draw. He remembers a conversation he shared with his wife, Daria, who traveled with him to Washington, D.C.
“My wife was there, and she was always telling me …. that I’m going to be Top 10 soon, that I can play good and stuff like this,” he recalled, as quoted by the ATP Tour website. “And so during the practice I was looking at her and saying, ‘Good Top 10 player here, losing 0-6 in practice.” That player he lost to in practice was France’s Lucas Pouille. “Now it’s her turn. She always reminds me this. ‘So what did you say in Washington one year ago, Daniil? Can you remind me?’”
Now, a little over a year later, Medvedev has established himself as one of the premier players in the world of men’s tennis and he’s surpassed both Shapovalov and Pouille in the rankings.
“Something clicked in my game in USA,” said Medvedev during his final press conference in Shanghai. “I don’t know why. I think it’s just the hard work that I have been doing. But I started to understand even more about my game, even more I would say about my serve, about my volley, about everything, like kind of what do I have to do when?”
One thing that sets Medvedev apart from his peers is you can never tell from listening to him during a press conference whether he’s won or lost. He’s always smiling, always projecting a sense of calm, always remaining upbeat. It’s refreshing.
For this week, though, let’s let Medvedev rest. He’s earned it.