After defeat against Sinner, does Medvedev needs a reset? | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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After defeat against Jannik Sinner, does Daniil Medvedev needs a reset?

By, Mumbai
Jan 29, 2024 10:56 PM IST

Medvedev is now the first player to lose two major finals from two sets up and his overall record is Grand Slam finals is 1-5

While the tennis remained exhilarating throughout this year’s Australian Open, there was one other immensely entertaining bit on court that stood out. It involved Daniil Medvedev with the mic in his hand after he reached the quarter-finals, which compelled Jim Courier, one of the most celebrated broadcasters in the business, to term it “the best interview”.

Daniil Medvedev of Russia gestures as he addresses the audience following his loss to Jannik Sinner of Italy in the men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships at Melbourne Park, in Melbourne(AP) PREMIUM
Daniil Medvedev of Russia gestures as he addresses the audience following his loss to Jannik Sinner of Italy in the men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships at Melbourne Park, in Melbourne(AP)

Having walked with Courier towards the back of the court, Medvedev spoke in great detail about arguably the most striking aspect of his game: the deep return position that, at times, even takes him out of the camera frame. The Russian, who’ll be turning 28 within a couple of weeks, said his strategy changed gradually over the years.

“When I return a serve from way behind, I’m hitting a normal top-spin shot,” he explained. “The ball settles into a good height back there. When you’re close to the baseline, you just take one step and sort of block the serve. But from way back, you have to run to the ball and can swing strongly. It’s also very tough to hit it out from behind.”

Medvedev admitted that because of his deep position on the court, he has to work incredibly hard on his fitness to be able to retrieve drop shots. It was a fascinating interview from one of the best players in the world. However, after he lost in the final to Jannik Sinner a week later, one couldn’t help but look back at it in a slightly different light.

Pushed to the limits

History repeated itself in the most cruel way for Medvedev. Two years earlier at the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal had come from two sets down to defeat him in the final. This time, 22-year-old Sinner handed him the same fate. It was a fifth defeat in six Grand Slam final appearances for the 27-year-old. Having lost to Nadal and Novak Djokovic, two of the greatest to play the sport, twice each in Major finals earlier, he came up short against a far-less-experienced player this time around.

Medvedev was pushed to the limits through his fortnight at Melbourne Park. He played 31 sets across his seven matches, which was the most by any player at a Major in the Open Era. At 24 hours and 17 minutes, he spent more time on court than any other player ever at a Grand Slam. Had he somehow managed to cross the line, he would’ve become the first player in history to bag a Major on the back of four five-set victories.

It was brutal. It was backbreaking. But in the end, it wasn’t enough. Looking at Medvedev’s shots lose their sting and his body move gingerly as Sinner stormed through the last three sets, one wondered if it was time for him to adopt a new approach going forward. The determination to be the hardest worker on court, to chase down balls from every corner over and over again, has undoubtedly brought him great success in his career so far. But at the closing stages of this year’s Australian Open, it felt as if that very commitment to his style ended up working against him.

Making things easier

In his post-match press conference, Medvedev reflected on the punishment his body endured and that he should’ve probably won easier matches. Therein lies the key. He has to find a way to make it an easier path for himself, especially through the first week of a Slam.

With Djokovic going strong and youngsters like Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz winning consistently, he is bound to face the toughest challenges every time he goes deep in a Grand Slam. By staying closer to the baseline and going for shorter points in the initial rounds, he could leave himself with enough left in the tank and earn the best chance to beat these top guys in consecutive matches.

Through the first two sets against Sinnner, he showed how effective he can be even with a different approach. He returned from a closer position consistently and hit his groundstrokes with a lot more speed, which didn’t allow his opponent the space to settle in and build momentum.

His ability to problem-solve on court has always been impressive and age-wise, he’s probably in peak physical condition. Playing a bolder brand of tennis could help him unlock a new level and break through that barrier in Major finals.

“I'm really going to try to make everything possible with myself, with my mind, for this loss to not affect my future tournaments and future seasons,” said Medvedev. “Because that's part of sports.”

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