WASHINGTON, December 16, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Editor’s note: The 2019 tennis season will be remembered for several new faces who emerged on both the ATP and WTA tours, such as Bianca Andreescu, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Ashleigh Barty, Daniil Medvedev and Coco Gauff.
Today, Tennis TourTalk continues a series of off-season features that highlight the breakout stars of the ATP and WTA tours with Daniil Medvedev.
When Daniil Medvedev won the inaugural Diriyah Tennis Cup in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, it capped a remarkable breakout year in which the 23-year-old Moscow native often was unstoppable. He certainly came ready to play in 2019.
Looking back, Medvedev, who began the year ranked 16th and finished as World No. 5, compiled an impressive list of statistics that led many ATP Tour categories: most tour victories (59), most ATP Masters 1000 wins (22), most tour finals competed in (9).
🇷🇺 @DaniilMedwed delivered in 2019!
What’s your prediction for the Russian in 2020?
— ATP Tour (@atptour) November 27, 2019
After Medvedev defeated Alexander Zverev, 6-4, 6-1, to win the Masters crown in Shanghai in mid October, which was his second straight Masters 1000 title, it prompted the tall, 6-foot-6 (1.97m) Russian to quip: “I don’t celebrate my wins, I just stay calm and do my job. Boom, done.
“It’s something outrageous that I’ve done in the last few months. I have been working for it. I just take it and I hope I’m going to do much more.”
After Wimbledon, Medvedev was nearly unbeatable, stringing together an impressive 29-4 win-loss record. He reached six consecutive tournament finals (Washington, Montreal, Cincinnati, US Open, St. Petersburg, Shanghai). Then, he was shutout in group play (0-3) at the Nitto ATP Finals; he simply ran out of gas and energy. However, during the second half of the 2019 season, Medvedev won three titles – Cincinnati, St. Petersburg and Shanghai – through grit and determination. Overall, Medvedev compiled an impressive 59-21 record and his booming – albeit unorthodox – first serve accounted for 690 service aces, fifth-best on the ATP Tour in 2019.
After playing 16 matches in a 20-day stretch over the summer – feeling mentally tired and reaching the brink of physical exhaustion – then, after the culmination of three weeks of dominance with his Cincinnati Masters victory, Medvedev simply wore a blank stare on his face as he approached the net to accept congratulations from Belgium’s David Goffin, his fallen opponent. Then, he raised his hands in celebration, tapped his racquet and waved to acknowledge the applause of the appreciative Center Court crowd of 11,400 fans who packed the Lindner Family Tennis Center. When he was asked by ESPN’s Brad Gilbert how he felt after winning, during an on-court ceremony that preceded the trophy ceremony, Medvedev quipped: “I’ve been playing for so many days in a row, I just need to stay in bed and watch TV for 24 hours a day. I hope to get to the US Open feeling fresh.”
Later, during his post-match press conference, Medvedev offered this bit of cultural wisdom: “In Russia, we say ‘who doesn’t risk, doesn’t drink champagne.’ So I’m drinking champagne tonight.”
At the US Open, feeling rested and playing focused, Medvedev strung together six impressive wins against a variety of opponents, including Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. Then, he went the distance against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in a memorable final that captivated the more than 20,000 fans who filled Arthur Ashe Stadium. Although Nadal won 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, Medvedev drew much praise for his unorthodox shot making and desire for taking risks during the four hour and 50 minute final that was filled with many spectacular rallies.
Watching Medvedev play and interviewing him are like seeing and interacting with two different persons. On court, he’s competitive and focused. Off the court, he’s polite and thoughtful. If you close your eyes during his media interviews, sometimes, it’s difficult to tell whether he’s won or lost. His character is likable. After cracking the Top 10 at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., Medvedev was asked if he would show a different mentality or put any extra pressure on himself. His response spoke volumes. He said, “No. I try to do everything as I did before to become the Top 10: hard work, just try to win. I always said my first goal is to win every match I play. This doesn’t change. … If I play good, if I manage to win matches, I’m going to be higher.
“Two years ago, I started to take tennis more seriously, started to dedicate my life to tennis, like really do everything I can to be better on the tennis court, and of course it took some time,” Medvedev said after he lost in the Citi Open final to Nick Kyrgios in early August.
“My first goal, I always say this, is to win every match I play not matter if it’s a first round or final. Because to get to the final, you need to win every match you play before.
“So, my first goal is to win every match I play. That’s how you can get points, and that’s how you can get money, and that’s how you can go up the rankings. So, that’s the main goal for me.”
Now, after winning in Saudi Arabia, Medvedev will take a few weeks off to rest a sore hip that forced him to withdraw from this week’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi. He will open his 2020 season at the ATP Cup in Australia next month representing Russia with Karen Khachanov.