Daniil Medvedev set to Maintain French Open's Legacy of Unorthodox Russians

·3-min read

It’s where Marat Safin dropped his shorts to celebrate a winning point and where Mikhail Youzhny smashed his racquet nine times and once scribbled ‘SORRI’ in the Paris clay.

The French Open has a proud history of embracing unorthodox Russians and now Daniil Medvedev hopes to extend the legacy.

“I feel happy about life. I feel happy about tennis,” said the 25-year-old world number two on Friday.

“Doesn’t matter if I lose first round or if I lose final. It’s about feeling on the court, and now I have it good.”

For a player who has yet to win a match at Roland Garros in four visits, it’s a surprisingly upbeat message.

But Medvedev is far from predictable.

The winner of the prestigious ATP Finals in London last year, he is also a two-time runner-up at the majors.

In March this year, he became the first man since 2005 not called Djokovic, Nadal, Federer or Murray to occupy the world number two ranking.

Like two-time major winner and former world number one Safin, he is not afraid to play the pantomime villain.

Safin was docked a point at Roland Garros in 2004 for dropping his shorts to celebrate a winning point on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Fifteen years later, the New York Post boldly claimed that ‘Daniil Medvedev is more New York than most New Yorkers’ after his ballsy response to being jeered by 14,000 spectators for petulantly snapping at a ballboy.

“Thank you all, guys, because your energy tonight gave me the win. If you were not here, guys, I would probably lose the match.

“So I want all of you to know, when you sleep tonight, I won because of you.”

Medvedev later apologised, telling reporters: “I actually have no idea why the demons go out when I play tennis.”

‘Genius’ at work?

At last year’s delayed Roland Garros, Medvedev was penalised a point for smashing his racquet against Marton Fucsovics.

It also cost him the second set before another limp exit in Paris.

His coach Gilles Cervara says working with the lanky Russian is “like coaching a genius”.

Medvedev’s antics in Paris last year didn’t quite match Youzhny’s epic meltdown in 2013 when he destroyed a racquet with nine lusty blows against the courtside furniture.

This year, the tennis gods have looked kindly on Medvedev whose second seeding has put him in the opposite side of the draw to Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and their combined 58 Slam titles.

French Open organisers, unlike their counterparts at Wimbledon, based seedings on the ATP rankings.

Therefore Medvedev, without a clay court title, got the second seeding nod over Nadal whose career haul of 88 titles features 62 on clay with 13 at Roland Garros.

“I don’t know actually how I’m going to be seeded in Wimbledon because even if I like grass I didn’t do so amazing on grass courts last few years,” said Medvedev on Friday.

“Same about clay. If they would have some special rules, for sure I would be seeded less higher, but if we take the rankings, I’m No. 2 so I have to be seeded No. 2.”

Safin never made it past the semi-finals in Paris while Youzhny was a quarter-finalist.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov was the last Russian to win the men’s title back in 1996.

So is this the year Medvedev makes the breakthrough even if he has won just one match on clay this year?

“I don’t know if maybe the balls change or it’s the conditions, because last year we had these Wilson balls which are supposed to suit me, but it was like 5 degrees when I played my match,” he recalled Friday.

“So far in practice I have been playing amazing. I didn’t feel that it was clay. I was playing like on hard courts.

“Most important is to play good, have a player that also doesn’t like clay!”

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