“Do you mean the game where I shivered?Daniil Medvedev does not lack self-mockery. It is with this subtitle that he resumed on social networks a video posted by Tennis TV of one of his winning shots against Rafael Nadal last year. For his first experience in the Masters tournament, he had experienced a most cruel hazing. He left the O2 Arena in London empty-handed, moreover missing by nothing the first victory of his career over the Bull of Manacor.
Medvedev led 5-1, 30/40, match point on the opponent’s serve in the third set, before gradually letting his brain eat. Because if Nadal had shown a sensational fighting spirit as usual, it was the Russian, very nervous, who had been overcome by stress and the fear of winning. “I was really disappointed, because if I had won this match, I would have had a chance to qualify for the semi-finals (it was the second group game, Editor’s note). It would have given me a lot of confidence to beat Rafa. But it happens in tennis. I have to learn from that kind of thing, but also put it behind me because I should have won. The three defeats last year do not affect my confidence for this Masters“, warned the Russian before the tournament.
Against the Big 3, you have to be able to finish the match, I know it all the more after what happened to me last year
It is clear that the world number 4 has walked the talk. Not only there he is in the last four, but he also added the way by not leaving any set on the way in the pool, drily beating the circuit boss Novak Djokovic (6-3, 6-3). And while the Serbian might not have been in the ideal mood that day, Medvedev’s calm and control in finishing off the wounded beast speaks volumes about the certainties in him right now. “Against the ‘Big 3’, even when they’re not at their best, it’s hard to win. You have to be able to finish the game. I know it all the more after what happened to me last year, of course. I knew I had to stay tuned“, he again rightly pointed out.
Against Nadal, the observation is all the more true as the Mallorcan is not the type to come out of his match mentally. He proved it again in his only group loss against Dominic Thiem, condemning the Austrian to excellence to win in two tie-breaks and almost two and a half hours of a superb fight. “It’s always a good feeling to feel that you are playing well against the best, that you are in the fight. I can’t wait to face the player who has produced probably the best tennis on the court in the past two weeks.“, is also enthusiastic the Mallorcan at the approach of the event.
The world number 2 would be wrong not to approach with confidence a semi-final against an opponent who has never beaten him in three meetings. The fact of having come through last year when his feelings were much worse than those of this week can only reassure Nadal. But as he himself recalled, the circumstances are so different for this latest London edition that the comparisons are not necessarily right. Behind closed doors for example, would Medvedev have cracked in the same way as in 2019 with such a margin? The public, largely committed to the cause of the Bull of Manacor to prolong the pleasure, had certainly played a role, if not preponderant, at least a catalyst.
Fresher and mentally stronger
And then, the Russian was at the end of the race in London last year after a crazy end to the season. The mental and physical freshness he now enjoys could be fundamental. Nadal wants to believe, however, that the data of the problem will not be fundamentally altered. “I don’t know if he’s a different player. He plays really well it’s true, but let’s not forget he played amazingly last year too! He made the final in Washington, in Montreal, he won in Cincinnati, he won in the US Open, he won in Shanghai and a few others … Better than that, it’s very difficult, isn’t it? ” he remarked quite logically.
Technically, Medvedev hasn’t changed anything fundamentally in the space of a year, but maybe it’s mentally that he’s made further progress. Since his return from the US Open where he reached the semi-finals in September, the Russian has often complained, including to his wife, of not regaining his exceptional level of the end of 2019. He has not been however never discouraged, and in Bercy, the click occurred against Alex de Minaur in the round of 16. Since then, the machine has been restarted, which does not mean that the person concerned is satisfied with it.
A first fundamental ball
“Against Djokovic, I didn’t feel good at the start of the match on the court. I made mistakes, I wasn’t playing long enough, so I wasn’t happy with myself. There are passings for example that I did not play well“, he considered, not without a certain die-hard perfectionism. And if the Serbian and the Spaniard are two monsters with different qualities, some prerequisites to compete with them do not change. Among these, a very high quality of first ball.At the Rolex Paris Masters, Medvedev had hit 70% of first balls on average, against the Djoker in London just less (68%).
An asset so powerful that it forced his opponents to retreat enormously from their position on the restart, which also allowed him to attempt a successful spoon serve against Alexander Zverev in his first match. To protect himself against a raiser of the quality of Nadal, the Russian thus hopes to grant himself a certain number of free points. If it succeeds, it will be able to show itself all the more urgent to relaunch – one of its fundamental qualities – and apply a second fundamental principle: keep up with the bottom line.
“It’s very hard to beat the Big 3, but you have to stay strong and that’s what I did against Djokovic. Rafa is one of the best players in the history of the sport. Of course I want to win against him. I haven’t done that yet. ” The ambition is asserted, confidence in the rendezvous and the opportunity perhaps ideal. It will take at least that to bend Nadal’s iron will.
Rafael Nadal – Daniil Medvedev
ATP Finals 2020 | Semi final