They made 2019 (X): Daniil Medvedev's golden summer

 - Simon Cambers

EPISODE 10/10. In 10 days, 10 players and 10 stories, here are the tales of a fascinating year

Daniil Medvedev during US Open 2019© Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

EPISODE 10/10. Daniil Medvedev came of age with six straight finals and US Open run.

For all the buzz about the Next Generation of players on the ATP Tour, until the US Open, none of them had made it past the semi-finals of any of the grand slam events. In fact, only one of them, Stefanos Tsitisipas at the Australian Open in January, had even reached the last four.

But all that changed over the course of a golden summer for a man who seems set to go on to greater glories.

Daniil Medvedev fist pumping during the 2019 US Open©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Almost a mirror image

At 6ft 6in, with a funky technique, Daniil Medvedev won three titles in 2017 but only showed the first signs of his grand slam credentials at the Australian Open in January, when he took a set off the eventual champion, Novak Djokovic, in a gruelling match containing some epic rallies, the two men almost a mirror image of each other.

But it was over the summer that the 23-year-old Russian really stepped up a level and began swatting away his rivals. It began in Washington, when he reached the final and he followed that by making the final of the Masters 1000 in Montreal, where only Rafael Nadal stopped him.

The following week, he went one better, taking his first Masters 1000 title by beating Djokovic and then David Goffin in the final in Cincinnati and by the time he arrived in New York for the US Open, he was ranked in the world’s top five for the first time.

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

He beat Stan The Man

Suddenly there was talk that maybe he could do some damage but Medvedev, at least in public, tried to play down his chances.

“I don't consider myself as one of the favourites just because at this moment of my career I haven't even been in a quarter-final of a slam,” he said on the eve of the event. “If I get to the quarter-final, it's going to be already a step forward and I'm going to be really happy about it. But the three weeks I made really pushed a lot my confidence. Now I know that when I play my best tennis I can beat basically everybody, and that's what I need to keep doing here.”

And so he did, but that was only half the story. Forty years after the first of four US Open titles for John McEnroe, whose mouth was as big a talking point as his brilliant tennis, Medvedev antagonised, sparred with and eventually won over the brash New York crowd to become an unlikely hero.

Having conquered cramp in the early rounds, he beat former champion Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-final and then, in his first slam semi-final, he was too solid for Grigor Dimitrov as he reached his first slam final. His joy may have been tempered slightly by the fact that it was Nadal he would have to get through if he was to take the title but the fact that he’d had a taste of the Spaniard’s intensity a few weeks before in Montreal was a bonus.

Daniil Medvedev plays with the crowd during US Open 2019© Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

"It worked out not bad“

For two sets, though, it looked as if his first experience of grand slam finals would be a short one as Nadal, relentless and unforgiving took a two sets to love lead and led by a break, at 3-2 in the third, out-grinding Medvedev from the baseline.

"I was thinking, OK, in 20 minutes I have to give a speech," Medvedev said later. "What do I say? I was like, OK, OK, just fight for every point, don't think about these things. It worked out not bad."

It was only then that the Russian showed his mettle. Breaking back, he snatched the third set and when he won the fourth, the crowd were going crazy. Even when Nadal led 5-2 in the decider, he was not done and Medvedev almost produced another comeback, only to finally fall short after four hours, 50 minutes in as bruising a battle as many could remember.

Nadal, who won his 19th grand slam title, described it as an “amazing final, a crazy match”.

Daniil Medvedev wawing to the crowd on the podium at the 2019 US Open©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

An amazing story

For Medvedev, the disappointment could not hide his pride at his achievements. It says a lot about his mental strength that two weeks later, he won his first title of the year, in St Petersburg and then went one better by winning his second Masters 1000 title in Shanghai, where he beat two of his Next Gen rivals, Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev along the way.

Though he qualified for the ATP Finals, his season tailed off slightly but he came of age in New York, and having tasted a grand slam final, he will want to hit the ground running in 2020.

“It was an amazing match,” Medvedev said. “It's an amazing story. All this summer is amazing for me. I will remember every moment of it. I'll definitely remember it, even when I'm 70 years old.”