Daniil Medvedev Looks to Come Back at the French Open

Daniil Medvedev Looks to Come Back at the French Open

The past 18 months have seen a new level of play from Daniil Medvedev, the lanky 23-year-old Russian ranked No. 14. With a tour-best 25 wins in 2019, he’s reached at least the semifinals in five of his 10 tournaments this year, including his win against No. 11-ranked Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo in April.

At 6 feet 6 inches tall, Medvedev has a solid backhand and forehand, grinding baseline play and a powerful serve, which have helped him win four ATP titles. He can also deploy drop shots that are especially effective on clay. Yet this year, his clay season has been mixed. He reached the semifinals in Monte Carlo and the finals in Barcelona, but lost his opening matches in Madrid and Rome. He looks to redeem himself at the French Open.

This conversation has been edited and condensed.

You attribute your success to getting your temper and emotions under control. Yet you just broke a racket during your first-round loss in the Italian Open. Are you still struggling?

That was just frustration. I was not happy with my game, and how the game was going. I had just lost my first serve in the third set with four unforced errors. I missed the drop shot and a let. It was not good — I just got crazy. It can help you sometimes to let it out. But it doesn’t help you all the time. Sometimes the emotions take over.

I have been working a lot on and off the court mentally with that. Sometimes I need to be better, but there are so many factors in tennis that throw you off in tournaments. It happens to everyone, and you can see it even in the best players. There are probably just a few who can keep playing at that level without those issues for 10 years and without those ups and downs. We all know who those guys are — there are not many. That’s what I’m working towards: being more consistent. That’s the toughest part of tennis.

You also had some issues with your back at the Italian Open. How are you feeling physically going into the French Open?

It’s funny. I didn’t play so good, but there are some days like these. I couldn’t really prepare for the tournament well because I was injured and not in shape. I had some problems with my leg, and the lower back just happened during the match because of the leg. It was the body protecting itself. My tennis just wasn’t there. It just didn’t go my way. I’ll be good for the French Open, for sure.

Tell me about your clay game.

I feel confident on clay because I won so many good matches in the first few tournaments. I know how to play on clay with confidence if I’m in good shape, and in a good mood and have energy. That’s the most important. The question is how to keep it up for all the tournaments. Not just clay, but grass and hard courts, too. I did well in those first two tournaments, so the confidence is there.

[Roland Garros’s clay courts can be particularly tricky for players. Here’s why.]

You’ve played brilliantly for the last 18 months. Do you have any long-term strategy or just play match to match?

It’s everything together. I have a long-term strategy with my team to build myself physically so I have less injuries. I’m also working on the mental part that will hopefully help me throughout all my career. It’s important to try and win every match. It doesn’t happen every time. Someone is going to lose. But you need to be mentally tough every match.

I’m consistently working on my tennis game. At the same time, you need to take it match by match. Imagine for 10 years you are just looking at the long term, and then suddenly your career is over.

Your game is solid. Is there anything you’re trying to improve?

We’re trying to improve everything. Each of my shots are quite good. After that, the most important thing is to build on that, and finish more points at the net. My serve percentage has to be better, too. I’m not going to talk specifically about the weak parts of my game — then everyone will know. I prefer not to talk about that and rather just work on those areas and make it better.

You have yet to win a Grand Slam. What’s standing between you and a win?

Grand Slams are such tough tournaments because they go on for two weeks, you need to be consistent and strong physically, it’s out of five sets, and you can’t lose your tennis game, which sometimes happens. You need to gain as much experience as you can since there’s only four Grand Slams. It was tough in the beginning because every tournament is so different — everything from the atmosphere to how you practice. It was all so new and unusual to me. It can take you out of your routine, and routine is very important.

I started to understand more and how to prepare for them. You need to be ready for everything that can happen. I did pretty well in the Australian Open this year. That helps to gain confidence and helps you come in treating it like a normal tournament even though it’s not. You try to convince yourself it’s just another match to win. Hopefully, I’ll get there one day to the semifinals and the title.

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