Daniil Medvedev plays tennis unlike anyone else at the top of the ATP Tour. The Russian’s shots aren’t smooth like Roger Federer’s or overwhelming like Rafael Nadal’s. He can’t make his body appear elastic the way Novak Djokovic does, either. But the 24-year-old finds ways to win, and part of the secret to his success is how he views his game.
“I’m really trying to make my opponent crazy,” he said.
Medvedev did that once again on Sunday to win the Rolex Paris Masters, capturing his third ATP Masters 1000 title by battling from a set down to defeat Alexander Zverev.
“I’m really happy with the final, with the win here, especially my level of game was really top-level this week. I think it’s not easy for guys to play against me when I play like this,” Medvedev said. “Today was a really tight match… after the first set I didn’t know actually what to do, because I had zero break points. I didn’t feel good returning his serve. He serves amazing. I lost my serve. Got a little bit tight. I was feeling like the match could slip [out] of my hands.”
Medvedev does not blow opponents off the court, but he continuously claws his way into matches and frustrates opponents, physically wearing them down. Perhaps most importantly, he has a good sense of the moments he needs to seize. As the Russian put it, he was “fighting like an animal” early in the third set and that proved critical in his victory.
“I have been working on my mental strength for a long time. I think I have done a lot of progress, because even if you see me still doing meltdowns, it’s nothing compared to what I was when I was a junior,” Medvedev said. “I worked a lot on it, and I’m really happy with how I’m performing with my mental strength many times.”
At last year’s Nitto ATP Finals, Medvedev led Rafael Nadal 5-1 in the third set of their round-robin match and he even earned a match point. But Medvedev let slip that match. Zverev was playing lights-out tennis early in their Rolex Paris Masters final, but this time it was the Russian who turned the tables to overcome a deficit in a big match.
“You will not all your life just be there crying about this match. [It] was almost [the] last match of the season for me,” Medvedev said. “I knew I had to leave it behind, just learn from it and learn how, ‘Okay, if you’re up 5-1 and you lose even your serve on 5-2, you should not go crazy, because you are still up.’”
This was Medvedev’s first final of the season. Last year, he led the ATP Tour by making nine championship matches. But towards the end of his victory in Bercy, the Russian appeared back at his best.
“It’s something that it’s tough to control. And I think if you succeed to control it, then you’re going to be an even better player, because many times you’re going to have days where you step on the court and you don’t feel the ball so well, can miss some shots,” Medvedev said. “Here even [in the] third set when I saved those three break points… [I just went] to the net, made volleys, all this stuff. You know that you almost cannot miss. And to beat you he needs to make a winner.
“When it’s like this, it’s really tough to play guys. That’s what top players are capable of doing. Hopefully I can do this many more times.”
Medvedev will try to maintain his momentum at the Nitto ATP Finals, where he went 0-3 last year.
“For sure [I am] coming [in] better shape than last year. Last year [I] was really exhausted, lost [my first match] in Paris. That’s when you lose your confidence. When you lose first round you always lose your confidence,” Medvedev said. “[I] just won this tournament, [I’m] going to have a few days off. [I will] come to London, practise good. Hopefully [I] can get some wins there.”