Medvedev breaking new ground

 - Dan Imhoff

A first title on clay boosts the second seed's hopes in Paris

Daniil Medvedev, entraînement, Roland-Garros 2023©Julien Crosnier / FFT

Daniil Medvedev finds the breakthrough amusing, interjecting with a chuckle at the mere mention of his name and “clay-court champion” in the same breath.

Such is the self-deprecating No.2 seed’s tendency to poke fun at his own shortcomings.

Following a first trophy on the red dirt in Rome, it as hardly fair to consider it as much of a shortcoming anymore.

“Still feels amazing,” Medvedev grinned.

The 27-year-old has had a tumultuous relationship with the terre battue, the only surface on which he had not landed a title until his exploits in the Italian capital.


His form heading into the European clay-court swing should not have been overlooked given he has reached five straight tour finals already on hard courts this year, winning four of them – in Rotterdam, Doha, Dubai and Miami.

“I think my shots, my movement and my physical appearance doesn’t suit clay,” he joked in 2021.

Daniil Medvedev, Roland-Garros 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Great expectations?

That came on the eve of his run to the quarter-finals in Paris, the first time he had passed the first round in five attempts, incidentally still a round further than he has managed on the grass across the channel.

There has been a sizeable shift since as he prepared for his seventh Roland-Garros campaign.

Dare it be suggested, could he now be mentioned as a genuine title contender in Paris?

“I don't know,” Medvedev said. “Because I also don't want to put too much pressure on myself, in a way. But what happened in Rome was amazing, especially beating a lot of good players, you know: [Alexander] Zverev, [Stefanos] Tsitsipas, [Holger] Rune, [Bernabe] Zapata Miralles, [Emil] Ruusuvuori, who went three sets with Alcaraz in Madrid.

Daniil Medvedev, Roland-Garros 2023, Media Day© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

“That's an amazing feeling, and I for sure maybe have more expectation than I usually had in Roland-Garros. But I know that it's also tricky and you have to use this confidence, but not get cocky, if we can say, because that's where the danger is.

“Sometimes you think, ‘Oh, well, I played so well, now it's going to be easy’. Then the first round you have problems. You can get angry and maybe lose the match.

“So I have been in this situation many times, and I just want to try to play good tennis here in Roland-Garros.”

A Rafa-shaped hole

One notable first for Medvedev is preparing at Porte d'Auteuil in the absence of the man who has twice denied him in a major final, 14-time champion Rafael Nadal.

“Tennis has a short memory, because you focus so much on yourself and on your tournament that you honestly don't care who is there in the locker-room or not,” he said.

“Right now, everyone is crazy about their first rounds, when are we playing, against who, what time. But the tournament is for sure gonna feel different, you know.

“Every two days before you could watch Rafa play on TV because they would show him, for sure. He would play on centre court. This year it's not gonna be the same.

“Without him there might be a new winner, who knows? With him it was a little – or a lot less chances for this. So it's definitely different.”

Daniil Medvedev, practice, Roland-Garros 2023© Julien Crosnier/FFT