Sunday, March 7

Daniil Medvedev, the latest disruptor, is on the brink of tennis history | Australian Open 2021


TOs Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas prepared to rekindle their young and fierce rivalry under the pressure cooker of an Australian Open semi-final, all the usual narratives took hold. Aside from the very nice drama: their mutual dislike stemming from their clash after a game in Miami two years ago that ended with Medvedev speaking the line: “Man, you better shut up, okay?” – It was the clash of styles that seemed to be a particular fascination.

Tsitsipas, with his one-handed backhand and firm embrace of the net, often positions himself as an heir to the Roger Federer and Pete Sampras lineage of classic one-handed players. The image is accentuated by its good looks and heritage, leading to an overwhelming number of references to Greek mythology and philosophers, including, of course, “Greek God.”

By comparison, Medvedev often seems to be seen as the next-generation dwarf. He’s tall, lanky, and was late to the party anyway, making his way after other young players had started building their fanbase. He’s a winner, most admit it, but that doesn’t mean he’s pretty: “Most tennis lovers would expect someone like Tsitsipas to win, just because of his skill and style of play.” Finished the great Frew McMillan at Eurosport before the game.

Most tennis lovers will have to move on. Medvedev outscored Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-2, 7-5, reaching his second Grand Slam in the quarterfinals after a surprising 20-game winning streak comprising 12 absurd top-10 victories. He is on the brink of history, one victory away from his first Grand Slam title, but also one win from surpassing Rafael Nadal at No. 2 in the ranking. Doing so would end the 791-week streak of only Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer occupying the top two spots in the rankings.

Medvedev’s game is certainly full of sharp edges and interesting technical decisions. His right hand remains fascinating for the way he follows the movements, wrapping his right arm around his neck at the end. But throughout this career, he has been able to draw on many facets of his game.

Despite being 6 feet 6 inches tall, he has become one of the greatest athletes in tennis. He keeps opponents uncomfortable with his flat, low-rebound groundstrokes and constantly changes the pace, trajectory, angles and effects of his shots. In an era where players tend to focus first on themselves and how they can use their weapons to damage the opponent, Medvedev is the last disruptor. “He’s cheating on you,” Tsitsipas said afterward. “You know, he plays the game very smart. It’s really interesting to see that. “

Stefanos Tsitsipas is often seen as a hair from Roger Federer and Pete Sampras' lineage of classic one handed players.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is often seen as heir to the Roger Federer and Pete Sampras lineage of classic one-handed players. Photograph: Dean Lewins / EPA

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Medvedev’s game is how he combines his strategic excellence with random, impromptu decision-making, which means it’s hard to figure out where his plan ends and where he starts inventing things as it goes. His ability to significantly adapt his tactics mid-game, going from constant baseline play to endless serve and volley, has become a trademark.

All those qualities should indicate that Medvedev has a full and varied game, but tennis is still shrouded in nostalgia. “Variety” is often a code for one-handed backhand and net play, regardless of the handler’s limitations. There is less discussion about how two-handed baseline players can also execute varied and entertaining tennis in a specific way.

On the other side of the court, Tsitsipas is a wonderful player, but the match was won by Medvedev exposing the limitations of his game that are much more prominent. The Greek is a below-average returner, whose 18.5% return games won total ranked him 33rd out of 50 players last year. He was unable to live with Medvedev serving and later described Medvedev’s service as “close to John Isner’s service”.

In exchanges, Medvedev put down Tsitsipas’s backhand, which is defensively fragile due to his ineffective backhand. Randomly accelerating with his favorite backhand, Medvedev dominated the backhand exchanges and then scooped up the inevitable short balls that followed. At the end of the match, Medvedev showed his variety by winning most of the short exchanges of one to four shots, fueled by his serve, and the longest and most forceful exchanges of nine shots.

After a brief wobble in the third set, Medvedev closed out his win with the dream of a comeback game, ending it up by regaining an excellent serve from Tsitsipas slipping on the deuce, before teleporting to the other edge of the court and nailing a backhand. down. winner of the line shot from an impossible position.

Medvedev has beaten every top 10 player since November apart from Roger Federer, who has been inactive. When informed of the feat, his response was understandable: “Yeah, it’s great to know this,” he said. “It’s a shame Roger is not playing. I would love to have played with him. ”From the press room in Melbourne, there was laughter.

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www.theguardian.com

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