AO 2022: All eyes on Medvedev

The world No.2 continues to cement his status as the favourite Down Under

Daniil Medvedev Australian Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

Daniil Medvedev’s confidence level is at an all-time high at the moment; so much so, that it’s palpable from across the net.

“I think if you asked everyone on tour, I think they would probably vote him the best player in the world at the moment,” said Nick Kyrgios following his four-set defeat to Medvedev in the Australian Open second round on Thursday.

“His consistency; every game he doesn't drop his level, he shows up every game, plays – I think no matter what the score is or how much pressure he's under, he never kind of gets flustered. He just has so much belief in his game. He's just so confident right now.”

The Russian world No.2 enters his Saturday third round against Botic van de Zandschulp on a nine-match winning streak at the Grand Slams and continues to cement his status as the top contender for the title at Melbourne Park.

Should Medvedev reign supreme this fortnight, he would become the first man in the Open Era to win a second Grand Slam on his next Grand Slam appearance.

The US Open champion came through a serious test against an on-fire Kyrgios on Thursday – a hard-earned victory that could only serve his cause this tournament.

“These kind of matches, first, second, third round of a Slam, it's like a big challenge where if you make it, you feel like, ‘Okay, if I can continue playing like this, I can go far’,” said Medvedev after his second round triumph.

“Of course it will depend on the other opponents. But, yeah, it's like a big challenge where you can fail it and go home the next day. But I'm happy that I managed to make this challenge.”

Contesting his first major as a new Grand Slam winner can come with extra pressure to perform, but Medvedev assures that hasn’t been the case for him.

Ever since he reached a maiden Grand Slam final at the 2019 US Open, the 25-year-old has made the second week at every non-clay major, and he’ll be looking to keep that streak going with success over Van de Zandschulp on Saturday.

Daniil Medvedev / Entraînement Open d'Australie 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

“It does give me extra confidence because now I know that it is possible to do it,” he said of his US Open title run last September. “And I know that if I'm playing good tennis it's really tough to beat me so, yeah, just extra confidence.”

Through his opening two matches in Melbourne this week, Medvedev fired 41 aces, won 82 percent of his first-serve points and struck 89 winners.

He is facing world No.57 Van de Zandschulp for a second consecutive Grand Slam, with the Dutchman being the only player who managed to take a set off of Medvedev during his US Open title run.

Medvedev knows he is edging closer and closer to replacing Novak Djokovic at the top of the rankings – a possibly massive achievement that is impossible to ignore.

“I think the higher you climb the rankings, the further you want to go. I have been No.2 for quite a long time. I have been playing pretty well. Of course, yeah, I want to become No.1, win 25 slams, or something like this,” he said this week.

“But again, for me the most important is hard work on myself, trying to improve my game, to be a better player, so try to win every tournament I play.

“If I manage to do big results, I can become No.1, especially of course with Novak losing his points here. I mean, we cannot not talk about this.

“But that's life. Sometimes somebody's injured, sometimes somebody lose. Well, he didn't manage to play here. That was a big story, but the result is this, and if I manage to become No.1, even with these circumstances, I think I should still have some credits,” he added with a chuckle.

Daniil Medvedev & Novak Djokovic / US Open 2021 ©Garrett Ellwood / USTA

The fact that Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open champion, is absent from the draw is not lost on any of the players. The perennial favourite Down Under leaves a massive opportunity for others by not contesting this Grand Slam but Medvedev does not see it this way, and says he would actually have relished the chance to try and defeat Djokovic on his happiest hunting ground.

“Melbourne, Rod Laver Arena is definitely probably maybe his favourite place in the world, because the amount of matches, the amount of finals, semi-finals he won here is sensational. I remember last year where I was like, ‘Well, okay, that's a good challenge, trying to stop him’ (in the Australian Open final). Was far, far away from doing that.

“So, yeah, actually I like challenges, so I would love to have this chance again to play him maybe in the final or something like this here in Rod Laver, even if he beat me or not, it's a good challenge and I like challenges in my career.

“But it cannot change my approach, because it's still seven tough matches to win.”