Medvedev tennis world champion for the first time: everything under control

Russian tennis pro Daniil Medvedev achieves a feat in winning the ATP Finals in London: he beats the three best players in the world.

He really loves it: Medvedev kisses the ATP Tour winner’s trophy Photo: Frank Augstein/ap/dpa

Others sink down as if struck by lightning after a great victory, lie on their stomachs or at least stretch their racket in the air. Daniil Medvedev doesn’t do that. This time, too, after winning the title at the ATP Finals in London against Dominic Thiem (4:6, 7:6, 6:4), he strolled unmoved to the net after the last ball and looked as if he had just come from a meeting at the tax office. The photographers on the edge of the court accepted it with a sigh; once again, two hours waited in vain for the perfect cheer.

But leaving aside these personal sensitivities, Russia’s best tennis player impressively set the final point after eleven years of the tournament at this venue before the move to Turin with the success in the final against the best from Austria. And there could hardly have been a more fitting end, as the first title in London East had also been won by a Russian, Nikolai Dawidenko. He was one of the young Medvedev’s idols, this time commentating on the final for Russian television, and afterwards the two found time for a little chat. That was super cool, the successor thought, and so the circle was closed.

But he was not only to be congratulated on this performance against Thiem, but on the whole tournament, in which he played magnificently from start to finish and won against the world number one (Novak Đoković), number two (Rafael Nadal) and number three (Thiem) in the space of a week. No one had ever managed that at the tournament of the best eight. The modest intention to win at least one match this time, in contrast to 2019 in London, became an emphatic reminder of what the world of tennis has in Daniil Medvedev from Moscow, living in Monte Carlo for years, number four in the rankings and 24 years old.

A young man who speaks not only English, but also quite perfect French, because for many years he has been coached by a Frenchman, Gilles Cervara. One who developed a penchant for math and physics in his youth at one of the best schools in the country, who is not entirely surprisingly a pretty good chess player, and who claims that unless he is tense or scared, he is pretty good at small speeches and interviews.

Playing with the opponents

The opponents probably wouldn’t care, because no one has ever won anything with speeches. But one of the special abilities of the almost two-meter-long Russian is to play cat and mouse with the guy on the other side of the court, to drive him crazy with his extremely unpredictable game. Now, tactics and adaptation are part of the arsenal of every special tennis player, but in Medvedev’s case, the willingness to upset the other guy as often and as sustainably as possible is added to the mix.

Those who play with the nerves of others, however, should have themselves under control; this has not always been the case in the past, to say the least. Of course, in this context, Medvedev is always asked about the match against Rafael Nadal at last year’s ATP Finals, when he had the thing shivered and lost after a missed match point at 5:1.

"You can’t do that if you want to be at the top," he says today, "I learned that lesson. I’ve been working on my mental strength for many years, and even though I still freak out sometimes, it’s nothing compared to my younger years."

Like when he was 14 and played and lost at a junior tournament in Croatia to Dominic Thiem, who was three years older, and who said to him afterwards, "Kid, you might have a good future ahead of you, but you need to calm down a bit." The progress has long been unmistakable, even compared to last year. At the 2019 US Open, he had tangled with the crowd, but by the end in the five memorable sets of the final against Rafael Nadal, people liked him again. In any case, his zero number during the cheers dates from that time, and he says he will stick with it; not good news for photographers.

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