Medvedev Talks The Talk, Walks The Walk

Daniil Medvedev was just 17, part of a promising crop of Russian juniors with Safin- and Kafelnikov-infused dreams. The Muscovite was on his way to a title on clay in Berlin when an interviewer asked him if his generation — himself, Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov, Roman Safiullin, et al — had the stuff to make it to the top of the game.

Medvedev, ever confident, predicted that the group indeed did.

“We were strong in the juniors,” said Medvedev, two days ahead of the Australian Open, where last year he finished as a runner-up to nine-time champion Novak Djokovic. “You’ll probably find many interviews of guys who say this and it doesn’t happen. For us, it happened. The more Russians we see in the Top 10, Top 30, Top 100, the better. My words were right.”

“It was definitely cool that it happened.”

It almost didn’t. Medvedev says that it wasn’t until 2017 that he truly committed himself to a future in tennis.

“There were some years in my junior career where I was still not sure if I was going to become professional or not, so I was doing more school stuff, university stuff, maybe practising less,” said Medvedev, who drew Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen in the opening round in Melbourne.

“Then I started thinking more about tennis. I was young, so I could do other stuff that would disturb me reaching my top potential. I think it was when I was 21 and I started working with Gilles [Cervara] full-time that I decided to be more concerned about my tennis career, to be more into it… I kind of made a deal with myself that if it didn’t work out, maybe I wouldn’t do it anymore. But it did work.”

Now 25, Medvedev is a major singles champion, having halted Novak Djokovic’s calendar-year Slam quest at the US Open in 2021. The World No. 2 — the first player not named Djokovic, Nadal, Federer or Murray to occupy the spot since 2005 — says his achievement in Flushing Meadows paid dividends far beyond the $2.5 million in prize money.

“It gave me a lot of confidence, I want to say, in my life and in my tennis life,” he said.

“Now I feel like I know even more what I can do, how I can play, what I have to do to play like this. Of course, tennis is about ups and downs. We never know what’s going to happen. But I’m feeling much more confident than last year in terms of knowing my game, what I’m capable of.”

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