Medvedev set for battle of big personalities

Russian No.2 seed brings hard-court hopes to first-round Bulblik showdown

Daniil Medvedev, practice, Roland-Garros 2021©️ Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

Daniil Medvedev would be forgiven for being a little down on his chances on the eve of his fifth Roland-Garros given he has never won a main-draw match in four showings.

Six of his past seven outings on clay have ended in defeat but the Russian cut a relaxed and jovial figure as he addressed the press ahead of his first major as the world No.2.

There is an air of freedom about the 25-year-old, able to play without heavy expectations on a surface against a one-time Futures circuit doubles partner, the enigmatic Alexander Bublik in the first round.

“I feel happy about life. I feel happy about tennis,” Medvedev said on Friday. “First time in two months, so that's just great feeling.

“Doesn't matter if I lose first round or if I lose final. It's about feeling on the court, and now I have it good.”

That feeling is generally better for both men when on hard courts, although Bublik sprung the surprise on fellow showman Gael Monfils in the opening round at Roland-Garros last year.

Daniil Medvedev, practice, Roland-Garros 2021©️ Loïc Wacziak/FFT

Medvedev’s own dismissal of his fortunes on the terre battue, too, may be a tad unfair given he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and world No.1 Novak Djokovic to reach the 2019 Monte-Carlo quarter-finals before sending off fourth seed Kei Nishikori to reach the Barcelona Open final a week later.

It has been his only purple patch on the red dirt, though, and his ledger on the surface since has not made for the easiest of reading.

His only win came earlier this month over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Madrid before Cristian Garin had his measure and Aslan Karatsev a week later in Rome.

There is no hiding from the figures. Medvedev’s 10 titles have all come on hard court, including last year’s ATP Finals and three Masters 1000s, while his match record on clay stands at a meagre 11-20 in the red.

Medvedev admitted, though, his first hit-out on the practice courts in Paris for 2021 had him feeling more at home than he anticipated.

“I have to say coming here was my first practice yesterday, I was playing amazing so far,” he said. “I didn't feel that it was clay. I was playing like on hard courts, and hopefully, I mean, I have some expectations.

“Most important is to play good, have a player that also doesn't like clay, but again, he will like the conditions here. Yeah, I really like the conditions here so far, and looking forward to make a great tournament, to be honest.”

Bublik never rated his own chances on the red dirt and once said in an interview with UAE's The National newspaper: "What can I do on clay, you tell me? Look at me, what can I do on clay? I won three matches in four years."

But the crafty and entertaining Kazakh has had a promising clay campaign heading into Roland-Garros, having made the Madrid quarter-finals earlier this month, taking out the likes of Denis Shapovalov and Karatsev along the way.

Medvedev's high-anticipated clash with Bublik is scheduled for Monday.