“I probably have just ridden the highest wave in my entire career. Nothing compares to it,” Daniil Medvedev told reporters in St. Petersburg after lifting the trophy there on Sunday – his third title of the season from a tour-leading eight finals reached in 2019.
How much longer can Medvedev keep this up?
Daniil Medvedev just lifted his 3rd trophy this season after competing in his 5th consecutive final. Impressive.
Medvedev was competing in his fifth consecutive final – a streak that started in Washington, then continued in Montreal, Cincinnati, US Open and now on home soil in Russia. That’s not just a regular wave. What Medvedev is doing is like surfing Tahiti’s famous Teahupoo and absolutely nailing it.
He posted six top-10 wins this year, including two over world No.1 Novak Djokovic, and became the youngest US Open finalist since Djokovic in 2010. No one has won more matches than him in 2019 (54), and no one has picked up more hard-court victories than him either (41).
Only two men in the Open Era have made the Washington, Canada, Cincinnati and US Open finals in the same season – Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi. The last non-Big Four player to reach five championship matches in a row was Goran Ivanisevic in 1996.
Adding his name to such mighty company is already huge for Medvedev. But the question now is: How much longer can the tall, wiry Russian with the quirky and sarcastic personality keep this up?
“To be honest, it is true they say – ‘The higher the wave is, the harder it is to hold onto it’. I do understand how important it is to keep going with all the hard work and practicing,” says Medvedev.
“In my opinion, it is impossible to stay at one place in tennis. You either grow, go further with each day, or you just fail.
“Even if you are still at the same ranking position, it still means that you keep pushing yourself forward. You just don’t stop becoming the better athlete. I can tell, that before St. Petersburg, I had questions to ask myself – ‘Will I repeat the success I had in USA? Will I be able to keep demonstrating the same level of tennis? Will I handle all media activities?’
“I think I proved to everybody that I can handle it and I will keep going at the same pace and in the same way.”
The red-hot in-form player
Those are words of a young man hungry for more. Prior to the US Open, Medvedev was the red-hot in-form player of the tour, but he had never made it past the fourth round at a major. He rectified that situation in New York, showing incredible fighting abilities and mental strength. When he looked down and out against Rafael Nadal in the final, trailing by two sets and a break, Medvedev somehow found another gear, digging deep to take the next two sets to force a decider.
Earlier in the tournament, he had aggravated the notorious US Open crowd with his on-court behaviour. When they booed him, he taunted them with his witty post-match speeches, daring them to jeer him even louder. By the end of the fortnight, New York’s favourite villain turned into a hero after showing undeniable character no one could attack.
It is that character that gives many people reason to believe Medvedev is the real deal, and is here to stay. When the ATP came up with the Next Gen concept, Medvedev was hardly the most touted of the group. He has a game that, at first glance, can be underrated. He doesn’t look like he’s doing too much but in reality he is putting his opponents in difficult positions, then relentlessly does it over and over again.
“I heard that Egor Gerasimov said about me that I am like an octopus – I cling and do not let go. This is true, I try to create as many problems as possible for the opponent, and very often in the second set they just crack because of this,” explains Medvedev.
An explanation behind his rise?
One stat that stands out from the Monaco resident’s North American summer was his efficiency in converting break points he created. According to the ATP, Medvedev won 52.4% of his break points from Washington through the US Open, compared to the 40.2% he recorded from the start of the year up until right before Washington. That leap clearly made a difference, and reflects that octopus-like grip Gerasimov has been talking about.
Having jumped from 84 in the world at the start of 2018, to his current position of No.4, does Medvedev have an explanation behind his rise?
“There are lots of reasons but will try to single out just two. If I am not mistaken, the first one is I was working hard especially during the last two and a half years. I’d like to say since I was six years old but the truth is the last two years,” he says.
“And the second one is experience. It is also very important. In my first ATP season I didn’t win a match in Masters and had only one Grand Slam victory against Stan Wawrinka. That match was a bit unusual. Every tournament I play, every victory and every finals I reach I gain experience that is priceless. That is what helped me to reach these heights.”
If he continues to soak up these experiences and evolve each step of the way, it seems like the sky is the limit for Daniil Medvedev.