Medvedev surprises himself

 - Alix Ramsay

Daniil Medvedev is through to his first Grand Slam semi-final thanks to a win over Stan Wawrinka.

Daniil Medvedev playing with the crowd at the end of his quartefinal match at the 2019 US Open©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

A little love goes a long way, as Daniil Medvedev has just discovered.

The pantomime villain of the US Open is now through to his first Grand Slam semi-final thanks to his four-set win over Stan Wawrinka. Now the man the crowd loved to boo just a couple of rounds ago is the wild man they love to cheer.


Daniil Medvedev and Stan Wawrinka at the net at the 2019 US Open©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

The more they booed, the better he played

It was back on Friday that he first drew the wrath of the crowd as he battled his way through four sets to get the better of Feliciano Lopez.

At times, Medvedev is a man with a short fuse and as the pressure mounted so he got more rattled. He snatched the towel from a ballkid’s hands, he made a rude gesture to the crowd – one that the umpire missed but the crowd saw, especially when it was flashed up on the big screen – and he generally made himself unpopular with the assembled throng.

When, at last, he won, he told the crowd, who were now booing vociferously, that the more they booed, the better he played. Bring it on, guys, bring it on.

But what a chap says with the adrenaline flowing through his veins and in the heat of the moment is not necessarily what a chap means. And afterwards, he was hugely apologetic.

"I was an idiot, to be honest,” he said. “I did some things that I'm not proud of and that I'm working on to be a better person on the court because I do think I'm a good person [off] the court."

Daniil Medvedev looking ahead at the 2019 US Open©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Now it is all getting awfully serious

But then, when he beat Dominik Koepfer in the fourth round, he did it again. This time is was the quick victory dance he did before shaking hands with his beaten rival that got the crowd riled.

Maybe it lost something in translation – or maybe the New Yorkers just don’t get Russian jokes – but when the boos came rained down upon him, he again asked for more of the same. The more they loved to loathe our Daniil, the more our Daniil loved every moment.

But now it is all getting awfully serious. 

Of all the young guns desperate to make an impression on the top end of the game, Medvedev has forced his way through to the front of the pack this summer. Since Wimbledon, he has played 21 matches – and 52 sets – and reached three finals and won one of them (he beat David Goffin to win the Cincinnati title). By rights, he should be out on his feet but still he keeps on going.

“The way I won was quite ugly"

Against Wawrinka, he arrived on court with his thigh heavily strapped and with various bits of him covered in tape. Ah, this might not take long, those paid to know about such things thought. But they were wrong.

Much of the taping was merely precautionary and while he was struggling with that sore thigh – and was not sure if he could even finish the match – a pain killer helped him on his way. There was, quite simply, no stopping him. He won 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

“In the first two sets, I didn't have any emotions because I was thinking, I'm losing the match because of my leg,” Medvedev said. “I'm either going to retire or come back to the locker room in one hour as the loser of the match. 

“Then when it was like 5-3 in the second, I was like, OK, now I'm starting to get stressed because I'm close to being 2-0 up in the sets. I'm definitely not going to retire when it's 2-0 up for me!

“I felt the way I won was quite ugly, because that's what I had to do. I am still really painful in my leg. I knew I have to play without rhythm. Some games I have to not run to relax my leg. I was hitting full power, then suddenly I was doing dropshots in the middle. In crucial moments maybe it will make him miss. That's what has worked. Of course, I would prefer to win in a normal way with a normal tennis game, but that's how I won.”  

Daniil Medvedev in the light ans shadow at the 2019 US Open©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Anything seems possible

Sure enough, he did not want to trade blows from the baseline with a man of Wawrinka’s power so Medvedev broke the habit of a lifetime and started to come forward more.

It may not have been the cleanest or most beautiful match every played but the Russian was on his way to the last four. And by getting there, he booked his place in the ATP Finals, the showcase event for the world’s top eight at the end of the year. All that hard work during the summer had paid off.

“That's what I've been working for all my life, especially the last two and a half years,” he said. “That's where I've been going step by step. I was improving my rankings. But I am still really surprised with the way this last four weeks have been going. 

“That's what I've been working for. That's what I've dreamed of. I've achieved some of what I've dreamt.”

Of course, reaching a Grand Slam final, or even winning one, would make the dream come true. But with Daniil, anything seems possible.