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“Different” clay affords Daniil Medvedev major opportunity at Roland Garros
Though the No. 2 seed may not be a natural dirtballer, Medvedev favors the Paris conditions enough to build on his quarterfinal finish from last year.
Published May 24, 2022
WATCH: A mellower-than-usual Medvedev has arrived in Paris, and hopes for a longer-than-usual stay.
The experience of playing on clay has yielded its share of creative analogies over the years. As a teenager Maria Sharapova famously compared herself to a “cow on ice,” only to fall in love with the surface and capture two Roland Garros titles.
Daniil Medvedev was similarly self-deprecating during his unforgettable clay campaign last season. In Madrid, he insisted that he couldn’t damage the court with his racquet when the surface was already “so bad.” A week later in Rome, he compared himself to a “dog in the dirt” during a losing effort to countryman Aslan Karatsev.
But there’s something about Paris. After finally getting his first win on the terre battue in 2021, he battled into the quarterfinals, and in spite of a hernia surgery truncating his clay-court preparation, the former No. 1 is again optimistic about his chances at Roland Garros.
“I still love hard courts more,” he clarified in press on Tuesday. “I play better on hard courts. I understand the game better.
“But, no, here in Roland Garros, even when I was losing first rounds, I was a little bit surprised. There were some tough matches, tough opponents, because I was feeling that Roland Garros is just a little bit different clay. It's a little bit faster, bouncing just a little bit lower.”
Medvedev had no complaints about the conditions in his first round against Facundo Bagnis, breaking serve eight times to score a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 victory in just under 100 minutes—a total 180 from his performance a mere days ago in Geneva.
“I feel like I'm doing a good job but it just goes in the net,” he said of his 6-2, 7-6 (5) defeat to Richard Gasquet. “Like first week, two weeks of playing on clay, on practice, I feel like I can lose to anybody…any player that I'm playing in Mouratoglou Academy where I practice, some of them, juniors, don't have points.
“When you don't know what you can improve, that's where it's tough because you're, like, ‘What do I do next shot?’ That’s not the case here, so I'm happy about it.”
The 26-year-old dismissed suggestions the clay block was mental, and indeed, wouldn’t surface-induced mental strain be at its most intolerable in Paris? Medvedev’s unorthodox style relies on lower bounces and a conviction that he can hit through the court—conditions which aren't guaranteed even on hard courts, if his BNP Paribas Open results are any indication.
At the same time, the Russian is an avowed perfectionist, a quality that has, since his junior days, driven Medvedev to distraction.
“I was winning 6-0, 5-0, lost again, got completely crazy, won the next round, and everybody was like, ‘Who is this guy who goes crazy when it's 6-0, 5-1 for him?’” the No. 2 seed recalled of his first big tournament as a 14-year-old. “That's how I was.
“In a good way it's competitive, but then at one moment I understood that it can negatively affect your tennis. But I definitely didn't understand it after this match. It was much later.
“I'm still learning, because I have some tantrums, if it's the right word, sometimes on the court. Usually I'm not happy about it. The most important is either to know how to react them or better how not to do them and just stay focused on the match.”
That perfectionism turned his dream Australian Open upside down when he lost to Rafael Nadal from two sets up in the final. So devastated was Medvedev in defeat that he refused to continue dreaming at all, but a mellower man is in Paris this week—one who will dream as far as the dirt allows.
“I know I'm capable of doing some good things, but I need to be 100% focused and ready for what clay has to give to me. Right now, I feel ready.”