Tennis

Daniil Medvedev Isn’t Making Any Friends During His U.S. Open Run

Three names have dominated men’s tennis for the better part of this century: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer. While these three are still going strong, new contenders to challenge them are emerging every year. One of those contenders is Daniil Medvedev

He is an exciting young player with a different kind of game than anyone else currently playing on the ATP Tour. What is Medvedev’s style of play, how has he fared in 2019 so far, and what happened when he battled the crowd at this year’s U.S. Open? 

Daniil Medvedev’s style of play and career achievements

Medvedev turned pro in 2014. The 23-year-old is currently ranked fifth in the world. He has five career titles, including: 

  • 2019: ATP Masters 1000 Cincinnati, Sofia
  • 2018: Tokyo, Winston-Salem, Sydney

His career win-loss record is 116-71, with a 7-13 record versus top-ten opponents. He’s 11-11 in Grand Slams and 38-28 on tiebreaks. 

Medvedev has a playing style unlike any other player on the ATP Tour. One of his opponents described it thusly

“He has a very weird game. It’s very sloppy, but a good sloppy,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has yet to beat the Russian in their four FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. “I don’t mean this in a bad way. He’s just very uncomfortable to play against.”

Medvedev uses an unorthodox style that includes a flat backhand shot, off-speed shots, and angling shots “flat and low” as told by Tsitsipas. Medvedev is able to keep his opponents off-balance with his unpredictability. For a comparison to another sport, think of a knuckleball pitcher in baseball. He’s consistent with his maddening inconsistency. 

2019 Season

The ATP story quoted above regarding Daniil Medvedev’s style outlined some of his recent success: 

“Although his style may not be conventional, it’s clearly working. The Russian reached his first ATP Masters 1000 final last week at the Coupe Rogers (l. to Nadal), finished runner-up the week before at the Citi Open (l. to Kyrgios) and sits at a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 8. On Tuesday, he scored a first-round victory over Kyle Edmund at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.”

Medvedev’s 2019 record overall is 44-16, with a 5-3 record in Grand Slam events. He’s 6-5 against the top-ten and 2-4 in tournament finals. He’s also 31-8 on hard surfaces. Quite simply, he’s one of the best players on Tour this year. 

One weakness in his game? His temperament. While he hasn’t had highly publicized outbursts like tourmate Nick Kyrgios, he has lost his composure on more than one occasion. After Medvedev made it through a tournament in Washington without incident, he put his ability to stay composed in perspective: 

“It feels much nicer, but it doesn’t mean that one day, maybe tomorrow, I’m not going to smash three racquets. I’m working on it and hopefully I can continue it for as long as possible.”

Daniil Medvedev’s performance at the U.S. Open 

Daniil Medvedev looked impressive in his first two matches at the U.S. Open, defeating Prajnesh Gunneswaran in the first round and Hugo Dellien in the second round. 

In the third round match against Feliciano Lopez, Medvedev’s temper would again rear its ugly head. Medvedev would grab a towel from a ballperson then throw it away in frustration. When the umpire gave him a violation for this, he threw his in racquet in anger. He also flashed an obscene gesture to the crowd when the umpire wasn’t looking. 

Medvedev won in four sets. After the match, he’d play the role of a professional wrestling heel, taunting the rowdy, late-night Queens crowd: 

“If you were not here today, I would probably have lost the match because I was so tired, I was cramping yesterday. I want all of you to know, when you go to sleep at night, I won because of you…Again, all I can say, all the energy you’re giving me right now, I want you to know, it will give me energy for my next five matches. The more you do this, the more I will win for you guys. Thank you.”

Medvedev is clearly a very talented player – but if he can’t keep his antics in check, he may have a hard time getting to that next, elite level.