In the direction of the grand final in Australia, the third of a great in his career and the second in Melbourne, the Russian Daniil Medvedev offers a synthesis based on impossible returns, millimetric serves and a sophisticated plan to weave the points that he ends up taking out of his squares to the rival, in this case Stefanos Tsitsipas: 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 and 6-1, in 2h 30m. It is the house brand. Few catalogs as exuberant and complete as that of number two, which reduces the Greek, progresses and sees Rafael Nadal in the final on Sunday (9.30, Eurosport). Medvedev does it, in any case, in his own way. An erupting volcano in Moscow.
When the opponent is about to serve to balance the match in the second set, 5-4 against him on the scoreboard, the tension runs through his body and is finally expressed in the form of anger. The 25-year-old Russian focuses on the top of the chair, points at the judge who watches everything from there, the Spanish Jaume Campistol, and shoots without restraint. He just explodes: “Dude, are you crazy? His father is talking to him at all points. Can you talk to him at all points? dobro, you’re stupid? Are you going to answer my question? My God, you’re so mean… Look at me, I’m talking to you! Look at me! How can you be so bad in the semifinal of a Grand Slam?
In a minimum interval of time, in just a few rackets and as many words, Medvedev summarizes himself. Capable of the best and the worst, last year he described himself in a meeting with this newspaper in Madrid: “There are times when I don’t understand my own emotions. It happened to me when I was very young, I was very calm in my personal life and it was very difficult to get angry, but in tennis it was much worse than now; I could lead 3-0 and lose a point, and suddenly I would go crazy. I couldn’t understand why this had happened to me. I’m not crazy and I’m not the ice man.
It’s Medvedev, Daniil’s two worlds. The portentous tennis player who threatens to end the eternal modern tyranny of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic, and on the other hand the extreme competitor who tends to lose his temper easily. Shorts to choose from. It happens now in Melbourne, but it happened before in New York, Madrid and a good handful of other enclaves. It is not and will not be the first or the last time that the Muscovite will have a hard time with a rival, with the referee or with the stands. Without going any further, these days he accused a sector of the Australian of having a “low IQ” while whistling at him.
For him, as for those other guerrillas or villains from the history of the racket, adversity is food. The whistles, music to your ears. Find the best stimulus in the opposition. “Thank you, because your energy has given me victory. If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have won, because I was so tired. I want you to know: when you go to sleep, think that I have won thanks to you. The more you do this, the more time I will gain”, he dedicated to New York fans three years ago, after resolving a heated match against Feliciano López.
“Beating Spain at home, in Madrid, is the best thing that has happened these two weeks,” he broadcast in November during the Davis Cup, at the Casa de Campo in the Spanish capital. There were also whistles heard, the soundtrack of a career that generates as much adhesion as rejection. No one is left indifferent by Medvedev, a resident of Monte Carlo, married since 2018 to a Russian journalist who left tennis at the age of 17 and trained in elite schools in Moscow – among them, the Physics and Mathematics high school; a lover of chess, a strategist from all sides on the court and unflappable in situations where most players tend to fall apart.
To the referee: “You are a kitten”
Polyglot –he speaks English and French perfectly, in addition to his native language–, hooked on PlayStation –in Davis he celebrated a victory emulating Cristiano Ronaldo– and an admirer of the American Pete Sampras or his compatriot Marat Safin, he shares a good friendship with Djokovic and has nurtured the number one style. “Novak will surely watch the final on television, as I imagine Rafa would have seen the one we two played last year, and I suppose Federer too. It’s funny to play again against someone who is playing his 21st major”, he said after beating Tsitsipas.
Three days earlier, Medvedev narrowly missed elimination against Félix Auger Aliassime, but stepped over the edge. Previously, he had to put out a couple of fires against Nick Kyrgios and Maxime Cressy, who took a set from him apiece. However, if there is an opponent that Nadal does not want to see even in the paint – apart from Djokovic, of course – that is him, a wall (1.98) without holes, extraordinary from the back of the court, with a formidable two-handed backhand and an impressive range of services. There is nowhere to sink your teeth. Now, his profile is the most heterodox. It seems that it is going to fall or that it is going to break, but it returns everything. However and from wherever.
While other generationmates intimidate the old guard with more talk than anything else, he attacks with facts and threatens the establishment. Conquered his first big, he has the throne within reach and collects 13 trophies; Apart from the US Open and the Davis Cup, the previous year it also held the Montreal Masters 1000, in 2020 the Paris-Bercy and the Masters Cup, and three years ago it took the first serious bites in Cincinnati and Shanghai. He has already beaten Nadal once (2020 Masters) and Nole four, although he was unable to overwhelm Federer in three disputes. However, if anyone is running to inherit the power of the giants, it is him, the man with a nasty face and a Fido Dido. Long as he couldn’t, Medvedev, a nightmare, is back in front.
“You’re… How could I tell? A kitten (little cat)”, he dedicated to the referee this Friday after giving up the set. “I’m sorry,” he apologized as he shook Campistol’s hand as he left Center Court. On Sunday, Nadal awaits a beast.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.