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Daniil Medvedev outfoxes crafty Jenson Brooksby, stands a win from reclaiming world No. 1 in Miami
The top seed won 10 of the final 11 games to ease into the last eight, where he'll aim to usurp Novak Djokovic with a semifinal result.
Published Mar 29, 2022
WATCH: Medvedev visited the Tennis Channel Live Desk after his fourth-round win over Brooksby.
On the brink of losing the opening set today at the Miami Open, Daniil Medvedev at last summoned the weaponry that has taken him from counterpuncher to contender to champion. The occasion for this 79-minute sequence was Medvedev’s 7-5, 6-1 fourth-round win over a younger stylistic cousin, Jenson Brooksby.
“I think there are some similarities,” said Medvedev. “He likes to hit the ball flat. I feel like he has this ability, being big, I mean, really good runner, we all know, but also being in the tough positions, so many times you feel like, ‘Okay, maybe I have to go to the net or my next shot is going to be easy because I put him in trouble.’ Then from these strange positions, he gives you a tough ball to play. That's really high level of tennis, because that's when you are the most in trouble.”
Both Medvedev and Brooksby reveal much about tennis instruction. At facilities all over the world, juniors are taught conventional ways to hit the ball—often in a concussive manner that starts and finishes with repetition. But is rote learning the best way to learn how to play tennis? Or is it merely an excuse for failing to teach a player how to truly disrupt an opponent and craft a playing style? What instead did Medvedev and Brooksby decide in their formative years? How was each fortunate enough to be left alone to aggregate his own techniques and vision of the court? Perhaps, when we witness the likes of Medvedev and Brooksby and the way each constructs a point, we should abandon notions of orthodoxy and instead employ such words as “effective” and “sustainable.”
In the course of taking a 5-3 first set lead, the 21-year-old Brooksby appeared the elder, wiser player. He repeatedly bamboozled the 26-year-old Medvedev with depth, accuracy and an uncanny ability to hit the ball just early enough to either elicit errors or open up the court for a facile placement. Medvedev floundered, his shots lacking both direction and pace.
I knew before the tournament that I have to be [in the semifinals] if I want to be No. 1. It's great that I have this chance. Daniil Medvedev
“His strength is definitely, and that's the most important in tennis, put the ball in the right spot,” said Medvedev. “In the beginning, that's what he was doing great. He was hitting corners, aggressive, some winners, not much I could do.”
Just as Brooksby appeared halfway towards a major upset, things fell apart. Serving at 5-4, 30-15, Brooksby erred wide with a down-the-line backhand. That was followed by a misfired forehand and a netted backhand. Brooksby’s now on the path from counterpuncher to contender: skilled enough to coax mistakes, but not powerful enough to terminate points versus the very best. To succeed at the highest levels, Brooksby will need much more power, particularly in the serve department. While Medvedev won 85 percent of his first serve points and his eight aces, Brooksby captured only 55 percent and did not serve a single ace.
The three-point sequence that evened the opening set commenced a 180-degree momentum switch. Having won four straight games to take the first set, 7-5, Medvedev broke Brooksby’s serve early in the second. In a trance for most of the first set, Medvedev snapped out of it and begin to do everything better—quicker footwork, more pace, bigger serves. By the time Medvedev held to go up 3-0 in the second set, he’d won 19 of 23 points.
“If you want to win Grand Slams or stuff like this against the best players in the world,” said Medvedev, “you need to continue playing amazing sometimes for all the match, so today I managed to keep my consistency just enough to beat him.”
Medvedev now stands one win away from regaining the No. 1 ranking. “At this moment, I don't feel any pressure,” he said. “A lot of extra motivation to try to make it. You know, it's a great thing to try. To be in the semifinals, I knew before the tournament that I have to be there if I want to be No. 1. It's great that I have this chance.”