Medvedev: It’s All About Small Details That Add Up To Wins

WASHINGTON/PARIS, November 8, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Last year, Daniil Medvedev enjoyed a break out season in which he achieved a career-high ranking of No. 4, making him the highest-ranked Russian since Nikolay Davydenko in 2008. He advanced to nine ATP Tour finals – including six consecutive title matches with a 29-3 run after Wimbledon. Medvedev lifted four trophies and he also qualified for the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals. Whether by luck or thanks to a healthy dose of confidence, Medvedev made a name for himself.

Fast forward and it’s a bit of a surprise that the 24-year-old Medvedev is only now qualifying for his first ATP Tour final of the year at the Rolex Paris Masters, just two weeks before the end of the season. He’s put together two of his best performances of the year in back-to-back wins at the AccorHotels Arena in Bercy. The first was a 62-minute mastery of World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-1 during Friday’s quarterfinals, the second was his 6-4, 7-6 (4) win over No. 17 Milos Raonic in Saturday’s semifinal round.

One thing you learn from observing and talking with Medvedev is this: With him it’s all about small details, whether it taking the time for proper diet, sleep, exercise and practice. But it’s what has made him successful as a professional tennis player.

“Sometimes, [it’s] a little bit of luck, a little bit of confidence,” he said this week during one of his virtual interviews. But he’s always ready to show his best.

Against Schwartzman, Medvedev hit eight aces, won 96 percent (27 of 28) of his first serves and didn’t face a break point while breaking his opponent four times. Then, against Raonic, he hit seven aces, won 80 percent of his first serves and saved six of seven break points. In both matches, he played mostly from the position of being ahead.

When Tennis TourTalk asked Medvedev after his semifinal victory against Raonic if this is the best that he’s played all season long, he replied, “I don’t think it was the best tennis I have played this year, but it was definitely one of the best matches, two of them.

“I was playing good in the beginning of the year, and then there was a stop,” Medvedev continued, referring to the five-month ATP Tour hiatus because of the global coronavirus pandemic. “I was playing good in [the] US Open and Cincinnati, actually.”

Before the interruption of the tour in March, Medvedev won four of his five matches in the ATP Cup and followed it with a round of 16 finish at the Australian Open. He also reached the quarterfinals in Marseille. Then, coming out of the break, he was a quarterfinalist in the Western & Southern Open (Cincinnati Masters) held in New York this year and advanced to the semifinals of the US Open before losing to eventual champion Dominic Thiem. His run to the finals in Paris is his best result since the ATP Tour resumed in August.

“So, there are always matches where you can say maybe this one was the best, maybe this one. But these two were two really good matches.”

In Medvedev’s run-up to today’s final against fourth seed and World No. 7 Alexander Zverev, following a first-round bye he won by retirement over Kevin Anderson, which occurred during a first-set tiebreak. Then, he rallied for a three-set win against No. 16 seed Alex de Minaur, and followed it with the aforementioned domination of Schwartzman and Raonic, in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

“Yeah, something is working well here in Paris,” said Medvedev, whose record entering Sunday’s final is 22-10. “Maybe I like the balls, maybe the court. But I was working hard, you know, after clay season, before clay season. So I know that at one moment if you practice well, you do your job, at one moment the sensation is going to come back. This moment came here in Paris, which is really good because that’s my first final.”

When Medvedev sat for his virtual press interview Saturday following his win against Raonic, the Zverev-Rafael Nadal semifinal was still in progress. So, the pencil-thin, 6-foot-6-inch (1.98 m), 182-pound (83 kg) Moscow native who now resides in Monte Carlo with his wife Daria, spoke about both.

“They are both amazing players, both Top 10,” Medvedev said. “I mean, when you play a Masters final, you don’t have an easy opponent in front of you.

“I saw that Sascha won the first set, so let’s see who wins the match. You know, nothing to say more than that they are just two really good players, and no matter who you play it’s going to be really tough to beat them. So, I have to prepare well and show my best tennis [Sunday].”

One thing that stands out about Medvedev is his brisk style of play; he plays points in his service games very quickly. There’s little wasted effort. Despite his height, he moves very gracefully about the tennis court.

“Yeah, it’s definitely true that I like to play points fast,” Medvedev told Tennis TourTalk. “Maybe not too fast. I try not to disturb my opponent by this. Actually, when I play Rafa, I feel for him. It’s a little bit too fast, but, well, I cannot do anything with this also (smiling).

“That’s just something I feel comfortable with. If it would be longer, I will try to make it longer. If it will be faster, I will try to make it faster.”

Fortunately for Medvedev, he won’t have to worry about playing Nadal in the final.

“But that’s how I feel comfortable, so that’s how I was doing all my life. Especially when you make a good serve, I just want to continue the moment, just to take another ball, don’t go for the towel. And, yeah, no real explanation to this. That’s just how I like to do it.”

When a reporter asked Medvedev about whether his mindset is any different now than when he broke through on the Masters 1000 level a year ago – and has grown from the experience – he explained:

“In a way, it’s the same, because I always said that even when I was a junior my goal is to win match by match, because only like this I can get to the final, can win the tournament.

“So, you have your first round to play. I think many players think the same, ‘Okay, you need to win the first round.’ Then, you see for the second one.

“Of course, experience is a good key. The first Masters final I lost actually very easy to Rafa Then, I won two next because, yeah, when you step out for your first Masters 1000 final, you are really tight. Your hands are shaking a little bit because you think, ‘Okay, maybe that’s my last opportunity to be in the final of a Masters 1000.’

“Then, second, third time, the more you get them, the more it becomes easier to handle these emotions. So, hopefully this experience can help me [Sunday].”

Click here for Saturday’s results