Medvedev masterclass proves he can trick Djokovic for Grand Slam glory

 - Alex Sharp

The Russian is targeting his first major trophy in Sunday’s Australian Open final against defending Novak Djokovic.

Daniil Medvedev Australian Open 2021@Tennis Australia / Morgan Hancock

“He put on his show. He became Daniil Medvedev for three sets in a row… he tricks you, he plays the game really smart.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas looked shell-shocked, having been dismissed 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 by the man of the moment Daniil Medvedev.

“He's a player who has unlocked pretty much everything in the game. It's like he's reading the game really well.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Daniil win the tournament.”

World No.1 Novak Djokovic, the defending and eight-time champion, stands in Medvedev’s way in the Australian Open final on Sunday.

17 aces and 46 winners popped past Tsitsipas in a ‘Medve-devasting’ performance, which was the fourth seed’s 20th successive match win.

The Rolex Paris Masters, ATP Finals and ATP Cup have all been lifted by the Russian prior to navigating through the draw at Melbourne Park. 

“I don’t have an answer, I’ve just been working really hard at it, my whole life,” stated the 25-year-old, posting 12 Top 10 victories during his hot streak. 

“But for me it’s a great achievement. Before Paris, I was feeling horrible in my tennis, I was losing some tight matches, where I didn’t feel my game on top. 

“I remember one moment when I was already playing quite good I actually was struggling with the top 10 guys when I was maybe around top 20 or top 30. It's great to hear this and hopefully I can keep the momentum going.” 

One of these 20 wins was against world No.1 Djokovic, a commanding 6-3 6-3 triumph at the ATP Finals last November. Due to Medvedev’s astonishing current run, Djokovic declared the Russian is the “man to beat” at Melbourne Park.  

“I like that I don’t have a lot of pressure because he never lost in eight times that he was in the final. It’s him who has all the pressure, getting to Roger, Rafa, (20) in the Grand Slams (Djokovic on 17),” stated the 25-year-old, the youngster men’s finalist since Djokovic in 2012. 

“I’ve proven I can beat some big names, that’s the main part.  For sure he has more experience, but more things to lose.

“I'm the challenger, I'm happy about it. I like to play against Novak. We have, since the first one when I was ranked 60, we had always tough matches physically, mentally. And he's one of the greatest tennis players in the history of tennis. So playing final against him is superb. Let's see what happens on Sunday.”

Medvedev stands 4-3 down facing the Serbian but isn’t taking too much notice of that record, indicating the world No.1 won’t either. 

“I think doesn't matter that much unless it's, let's say, 10-0, then for sure it gets in the head. When it's 4-3 I think every match is different. Played him in Grand Slam only once. Lost it here actually in Australian Open (four sets, 2019) in quite tight match, when I was not at the level I am right now,” added the fourth seed, aware Djokovic will be fiercely determined to clinch more history on the weekend.

“When Djokovic is in the zone, he doesn’t miss, that the point with him. I’m not bad at this also. We played unbelievable matches. He’ll not give anything.”

But it’s Medvedev who seems unplayable right now. 

He clipped a backhand cross court passing shot from off his shoe laces to help pinch away the pivotal 4-2 break lead against Tsitsipas in the second set. A microcosm of his current confidence.

The world No.4, rising to second spot should he taste major success, also dismissed a third set comeback by the Greek with a ridiculous backhand passing shot, on the run, behind the ‘Melbourne’ court sign. It was simply immense, find it on social media immediately. 

Daniil Medvedev Australian Open 2021©Tennis Australia / Scott Barbour

Those kind of shots catapulted Medvedev into his first Grand Slam final back at the 2019 US Open. Levelling from two sets down, he narrowly missed out in the decider to Nadal, but bottled up plenty of knowhow from New York

“It was a crazy match with Rafa, so if we have another crazy match, maybe I can turn some things for me instead of against on Sunday.”

Djokovic, also riding a 20-match winning streak at Melbourne Park, fired a warning sign to Medvedev and the chasing pack. 

“They still have a lot of work to do. I’m not going to stand here and hand it over to them,” insisted the 17-time major champion. “I’m going to make them work their ass off for that.”

Over to Medvedev, eager to highlight his self-titled underdog tag.

“I know that to beat him you need to just show your best tennis, be at your best physically maybe four or five hours, and be at your best mentally maybe for five hours. Never know how the match is going to go,” mused Medvedev. 

“I would say to win a slam, especially against somebody as Novak, is already a big motivation, and I don't think there is anything that can make it bigger.”

20 straight match wins versus 20 consecutive Australian Open victories, something has to give. Medvedev is up for the task to ‘trick’ Djokovic to steal away his Melbourne crown.