Within the past 12 months Daniil Medvedev has gone from a promising future prospect to one of the top players in the world of men’s tennis.
Up until June this year the 23-year-old was yet to crack the top 10, win a Masters title or reach the second week of a grand slam event. Then shortly after the conclusion of the Wimbledon championships, Medvedev enjoyed an emphatic period of success to achieve all three of those milestones. Within a three-month period he reached six consecutive finals at tournaments ranging from ATP 250 level to a grand slam. Enabling him to peak at a high of fourth in the world back in September.
Unfortunately for Medvedev, his surge came at price towards the end of his season. Losing in the first round of the Paris Masters and then all three of his matches in his ATP Finals debut. Something he blames on mental tiredness.
Not to be disheartened by the loss, the Russian is back on the court this week. He is one of eight players participating in the brand new Diriyah Tennis Cup. An exhibition tournament in Saudi Arabia, which has on offer $1 million for the champion.
“I do think in the middle of a pre-season a tournament like this is good. You can’t just practice for four weeks without knowing how your game is at the moment. Last year I also participated in one in France (Open de Caen).” Medvedev told Ubitennis.com about his decision to play.
“This is how we (my team) decided to do the preparation this year and are going to see how it works out.”
Kicking off his campaign on Thursday against Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, Medvedev enjoyed an emphatic start. Disposing of his rival 6-3, 6-1, in less than an hour. Whilst the prize money is undoubtedly an appeal for all of those taking part, the Russian sees this week as a golden opportunity to evaluate his game.
“It is going to be important to see how my game is right now in the middle of the pre-season. To see what I need to improve more, what I need to work more on with my team.” He explained.
“Obviously after my last season, I have a lot of big expectations for 2020, but first of all I need to stay lucid and take it all match-by-match.”
Given his recent breakthrough, Medvedev is being mentioned as a potential candidate to one day claim the world No.1 position. Since 2004 only four players have managed to hold the honour – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. To add to the pressure, former player Marat Safin has backed his compatriot to achieve the milestone in the future. Safin will be the captain of the Russian team in the ATP Cup, which Medvedev is participating in.
“I believe he can be number one in the world.” Safin told Russian media earlier this week. “His all-around game… we just need to work on certain small things.”
Despite the backing, Medvedev is staying grounded about the prospect. Insisting that he isn’t ‘obsessed’ with the world No.1 ranking. At present, he is more than 4000 points adrift from Nadal in the ATP standings.
“I have been thinking about it (the No.1 spot) since I was six-years-old, but the thing is that I’m not obsessed with it,” said Medvedev. “For example, if I was 40 and during my career, I achieved a best ranking of number two in the world, It would not change my life completely.’
“Of course working hard and playing so many tournaments you want to achieve the best ranking possible.” He added.
With his eyes on the grand slams next year, 2020 also gives Medvedev the chance to make his Olympic debut. However, it isn’t as simple as that. Earlier this week the Russian sporting federation was banned from major sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) due to various violations. An investigation found that the Russian Anti-doping agency (RUSDA) deliberately tampered with athletes samples to hide positive tests.
The ITF notes that Russian tennis has never been linked to the controversy, however, players such as Medvedev will be under sanction. Unless the ban is overturned, they are only allowed to play at the event as neutral athletes.
“To be honest as a tennis player it is a little bit tough to talk about these things because I live in Monaco and we get tested in every country around the world. From 20 to 30 doping tests.” Medvedev states.
“I know what happened, but I don’t know how to react to it because I’m not in this (the Russian) federation.”
Asked if he will still play in the Olympics, which will be held in Tokyo, Medvedev cautiously replied ‘I think so.’ Although he is far from certain in doing so.
“Looking at this decision, it’s disappointing that me as a Russian player, who hasn’t nothing to do with this, will have to play without a flag. It is a little bit strange for me. I don’t know why this decision was made exactly so I don’t know if it was the right decision.” He concluded.
Medvedev ended 2019 with 59 wins on the ATP Tour. More than any other player this year.
Interview conducted by Alessandro Stella in Saudi Arabia
Living In The Moment Pays Off For Garbine Muguruza At The Australian Open
The former world No.1 speaks out about the factors behind her winning run at the Australian Open.
Tennis can be a very technical sport with a lot of planning and preparation needed at times. Although for Garbine Muguruza the less she thinks the better she performs at the Australian Open.
It is hard to argue with the approach taken by the two-time grand slam champion given her resurgence at the tournament. On Wednesday Muguruza disposed of Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3, to reach her first major semi-final since the 2018 French Open. It is also the first time she has ever reached the last four in Melbourne Park. Although the Spaniard admits that there is room for improvement after hitting 21 winners along with 21 unforced errors in her latest encounter.
“At the beginning of the match I wasn’t feeling so good and said to myself that I had to find a solution.” Muguruza said during an interview with Eurosport Spain.
“I felt better, used my mind and my mentality to stay focused. Even if you’re feeling bad, it doesn’t matter.”
The breakthrough comes after what was a roller-coaster 2019 season for the former world No.1. During that year she split with long-term coach Sam Sumyk, exited the world’s top 20 for the first time in four years and at one stage won just one match in six tournaments played. So what has triggered the revival of Muguruza?
Besides a reunion with Conchita Martinez, who was elected into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this week, it is her mental approach to the tournament. It is no longer a case of looking ahead, but just taking it day-by-day. The Australian Open is the first major she has been unseeded in since 2014.
“I came not feeling great. I wasn’t really thinking, How far will I go? I had enough already thinking, How will I go practice today?” She said.
“I took every day at a time. Like that, each day I was gaining a better feeling instead of getting frustrated thinking in the future.”
One journalist during her press conference described Muguruza’s revival as ‘coming back from a coma two years ago.’ A phrase the Spaniard didn’t completely agree with. Between 2016-2018 the 26-year-old won four out of her seven WTA titles. Including both the French Open (2016) and Wimbledon (2017).
“I think a ‘coma’ is a pretty strong comment.” She replied.
“I would say I think those years were less successful if you compare them to my previous years. That’s how I see it. I don’t see it at all as a coma. I just think you struggle as a player, and there is moments where things don’t go your way.’
“You just have to be patient and go through the rough moments, just hang in there and it will come back again.”
Patience, as well as discipline, could be key in her upcoming semi-final clash with Simona Halep, who reached the final of the Australian Open two years ago. She leads their head-to-head 3-2, but lost their only grand slam encounter at the 2018 French Open in straight sets.
“I think it will be a tough match. I think that no matter when you play top five, it’s always deep in a tournament. It’s a semifinal, so of course I’m expecting a big player.” Muguruza previewed.
“I think she’s (Halep) a very solid player. She plays very consistency through all these years.” She added.
Muguruza’s upcoming semi-final clash with Halep will take place on Thursday. The last Spanish woman to reach the title match in Melbourne Park was her coach Martinez back in 1998.
The head-to-head between Muguruza and Halep
- 2018 French Open, clay, SF, Halep 6-1 6-4
- 2017 Cincinnati, hard, F, Muguruza 6-1 6-0
- 2015 Stuttgart, clay, R16, Halep 3-6 6-1 6-3
- 2015 Fed Cup Week 1, hard, R1, Muguruza 6-4 6-3
- 2014 Wuhan, hard, R2, Muguruza 2-6 6-2 6-3
(VIDEO) Novak Djokovic Makes Tearful Tribute To Mentor Kobe Bryant After Australian Open Win
The world No.2 pays his respect to ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time’ on the Rod Laver Arena.
World No.2 Novak Djokovic shed tears following his quarter-final win over Milos Raonic after paying tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
The 16-time grand slam champion took to the Rod Laver Arena wearing a green zip-up top. On the top right of his jacket with Bryant’s initial along with the numbers 8 and 24. The jersey numbers Bryant worn throughout his 20-year NBA career with the LA Lakers. A love heart was also placed under the numbers on Djokovic’s top.
“’I don’t know what we could say. It really caught us by surprise.” An emotional Djokovic said during his on-court interview with John McEnroe on Tuesday.
‘He was one of the greatest athletes of all time, he inspired myself and many other people around the world. I had that fortune to have a personal relationship with him over the last 10 years.’
‘When I needed some advice and support, he was there for me. He was my mentor, my friend, it’s just heartbreaking to see what has happened to him and his daughter. It’s unbelievable.’
Bryant was killed on Sunday in a helicopter crash that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others. As an athlete, he achieved numerous milestones. Including being named the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He was also a two-time Olympic gold medallist and played in 18 All Star Games.
Just days before Bryant’s death, Djokovic spoke about their friendship during an interview with ESPN. Praising him for the support he received during his elbow injury and fall in the rankings during 2017 and the start of 2018. Reflecting on the conversations the two have had, he said he received some ‘valuable guidance.’
“Kobe has been one of my mentors,” Djokovic told ESPN. “I’ve had several phone conversations with him and also of course when we see each other live in the past couple of years. When I was going through the injury with my elbow and struggling to mentally and emotionally handle all of these different things that were happening to me and dropping in the Rankings and then having to work my way up, he was one of the people who was really there for me to give me some very valuable advice and guidelines to kind of believe and trust in myself, trust the process that I’ll be back.”
Djokovic will play Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
The tribute can be watched below (from 00:30 to 01:40)
Novak Djokovic Books 50th Meeting With Federer At Australian Open
The world No.2 is closing in on a record eighth title at Melbourne Park.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic withstood 18 aces from Milos Raonic to set up a semi-final showdown with Roger Federer at the Australian Open.
Besides an issue with his contact lenses the 16-time grand slam champion was in solid form throughout his 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(1), win over the world No.35. Who was contesting a grand slam quarter-final match for the first time since Wimbledon 2018. Despite Raonic’s renowned thunderous serve, Djokovic’s defensive abilities enabled him to thwart the threat posed in convincing manner. In total, the world No.2 fire 29 winners to 14 unforced errors. Although it wasn’t entirely straight forward with the him only being able to convert two out of 16 break point opportunities.
“I felt great on the court. I was very focused. The first couple of sets went the way I wanted them to go. One break was good enough. I was comfortable serving, which is very encouraging.” Djokovic evaluated of his latest performance.
“Playing against Milos I knew that two key elements in the game would be the return and how efficiently I hit my spots with my serve.’
“I was fortunate to get out of trouble in the third (set) and played a perfect tiebreak. It was a great performance.” He added.
Heading into the match Djokovic said there was one thing which separates Raonic from fellow fast servers John Isner and Ivo Karlovic. That was that he found it easier to read the serve of the Canadian. This was evident during the opening set with the Serbian having numerous chances to break his rival, who had only faced seven break points in his four previous matches in Melbourne.
In Djokovic’s case eight break points came and went for him before he secured a breakthrough at the best possible time. Leading 5-4, back-to-back forehand errors from Raonic enabled the second seed to break for the first time and subsequently take the 6-4 lead after 54 minutes of action.
Gaining in momentum, the former world No.1 struck again four games into the second frame. This time it was a winning forehand pass from Djokovic that granted him yet another break for a set and 3-1 lead. Raonic continued to battle hard, but he was unable to find a way to break down the solid game of his rival. A 190km/h serve out wide forced the Canadian to return the ball into the net and grant Djokovic the two-set lead.
Closing in on the victory, he continued to face resistance from Raonic. Who mixed up his tactics to pose more of a threat. However, proceedings were then halted at 4-4 in the third set after Djokovic encountered an issue with his contact lenses. Unexpectedly triggering a medical time-out.
“I was to apologise to Milos because it was definitely not something you see very often.” Said Djokovic. “It was not intentional or tactical. It was just something I had to do because during those games I couldn’t see much. And I had to change my lenses. “
Returning to the court, Djokovic continued to weather the storm in what turned out to be a one-sided end to the match. A faltering Raonic resulted in him valiantly winning 11 out of the last 12 points played. Storming through the third set tiebreaker, he clinched victory after a backhand shot from his rival crashed into the net.
Djokovic’s win means that he will take on Federer next. The Swiss star suffered an injury scare during his marathon five-set encounter with Tennys Sandgren, which lasted just over three-and-a-half hours. Something he later described as ‘pain and problems’ but not an injury in his press conference. Despite questions over Federer’s current form, Djokovic is taking nothing for granted.
“I have tremendous respect for Roger and everything he achieved in this sport. He’s one of the all-time greats and has been one of my two biggest rivals.” He said.
“I’ve been saying this many times, but I will say this again: The match-ups against Roger and Rafa (Nadal) has made me the player I am today. I am very grateful for many great matches against those guys.”
Djokovic leads Federer 26-23 in their head-to-head and has won all four of their grand slam meetings since 2015. It will also be the fifth time the two have locked horns in the semi-finals of the Australian Open. Out of those encounters, Djokovic has won four of them.
-2016 Australian Open SF: Djokovic won 61 62 36 63
-2011 Australian Open SF: Djokovic won 763 75 64
-2008 Australian Open SF: Djokovic won 75 63 765
-2007 Australian Open SF: Federer won 62 75 63
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