A convincing end to 2020 for Daniil Medvedev winning two consecutive and noteworthy titles and recording a number of wins against players ranked in the top ten of the ATP rankings ensured that he will be a factor to be considered on the men’s tour in 2021, no lesser than the likes of Rafael Nadal, Nadal Djokovic, and fitness permitting, Roger Federer.
Medvedev’s Rise to the Top
24-year-old Russian Daniil Medvedev first came into the limelight in 2018, when he won three ATP titles at Sydney, Winston-Salem and Moscow respectively.
The following year, 2019 was stronger for the Russian with him reaching six consecutive finals, winning four tournaments (two of which were Masters 1000s), and displaying that he is a force to reckon with on the biggest stages at the back of his epic five set loss to Rafael Nadal in the US Open final at Flushing Meadows.
The streak during the latter part of 2019 saw Medvedev break into the top five of the ATP rankings and although he went winless at the ATP Tour Finals last year, one was left expecting a lot from him in 2020.
A shortened pandemic stricken 2020 season did not quite see what it expected from the young Russian, and by November 2020, Medvedev was yet to reach a single final this season.
The tide turned for the world number four, Medvedev at the Paris Masters ATP 1000 which he went on to win and topped it up with a stunning showing at the 2021 ATP Finals. There he beat Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, before toppling Dominic Thiem in the final to clinch the title.
Medvedev Undergoing Changes to Game
Going into 2021, Medvedev at the back of his run at Paris & London will definitely be a name to reckon with at all tournaments for a run at the title.
The Russian has had his moments of awkward interactions with the media and the fans, but has reverted to one who is not craving for the attention anymore and has subdued all celebrations as well.
With a small entourage of a team, Medvedev has always attributed much of his success to his wife, Daria, his sports psychologist Francisca Dauzet and mostly his coach of now three years, Gilles Cervara.
Little know ATP player from Italy, Cervara has worked on many aspects of Medvedev’s game and built a relationship of trust and camaraderie with the Russian. (read more on the roles and responsibilities of a tennis coach here)
Among the most notable changes in the Russian’s game have been his temperament, ability to tackle difficult positions when trailing, and improve the already strong aspects of his game, i.e. powerful groundstrokes and impressive court coverage.
Compared to the Medvedev of 2017 who defeated Stan Wawrinka in the opening round of Wimbledon, but had the moments of anguish and frustration audibly, the world number four and ATP Tour Finals winner of 2020 is a different player and individual on the court.
The strong return game, and excellent court coverage (for a man of his height), along with a dangerous serve make him an ominous proposition on a hard court, evidenced by the fact that all nine of his ATP titles thus far have come on hard courts.
What Does 2021 Hold for Medvedev?
An ever-improving net game to supplement his big first and second serves will make him a force even on the grass courts, especially at Wimbledon.
With all indications being that Wimbledon 2021 will be held (in some form or the other, pandemic depending), we can expect a very different Daniil Medvedev than what we last saw on grass in 2019.
The Russian has not been in the best of touch on the slower clay courts, and lost in four sets in the French Open opener this year to Hungarian Marton Fuscovics.
With the presence of players like Djokovic, Nadal and Thiem on the circuit, the Russian may still be a while away from sustained success on the red dirt and it may be the least rewarding part of the 2021 season for Medvedev.
Not to undermine the fact that he has been a finalist on the clay courts of Barcelona already, but if Medvedev were to break the Grand Slam ceiling, the French Open seems the least likely at the moment, given both his playing style and the opposition right now.
Medvedev, in 2021 remains a strong contender to add to his Masters 1000 trophy cabinet especially on the indoor surfaces where he has already won titles (Shanghai and Paris), as well as the outdoor hard courts in Canada and the US (Indian Wells, Miami and Cincinnati), with the faster Ohio courts in Cincinnati in the late Summer suiting him a little better than the Sunshine Masters.
The Russian, back in form and confidence at the tail end of 2020, will look to continue the momentum into the new season and will be a strong favorite during the European indoor seasons of February and October (the timing for such in a normal non-Covid affected tennis calendar).
The looming question mark always remains and continues to be this.
Will the likes of Medvedev stop the Nadal-Djokovic (and to a somewhat lesser extent Roger Federer), in the majors?
We have been there before and thought the answer was a ‘Yes’ and weren’t quite there in either of 2019 or 2020, despite Dominic Thiem winning the 2020 US Open with many atypical factors in play.
We believe the changing of the guards on any and all stages is finally here and 2021 will see the most competitive non Big Three presence at the majors that there has been in a while.
While we are yet to see Medvedev exude confidence and form on grass and therefore unable to pick him over the likes of Djokovic or Federer at Wimbledon just yet, the Russian remains among the top favorites at both Melbourne and New York along with Djokovic, Nadal and Thiem.
2021 will likely be the year that we see another first time slam winner, in Medvedev.
Expect the Russian to grow from strength to strength in both form and consistency. With a 3-1 head-to-head against Djokovic in the last four matches, finally winning against Nadal after two tight losses, and with a 7-0 winning record against top ten players to end 2020, the Russian will head Down Under with immense confidence.
While he still needs to take this level of consistency to the best of five set-up, there is every reason to believe that Melbourne or New York in 2021 will see him win his first ever major.
2021 Predictions for Medvedev
Expect Medvedev to be add to his Masters 1000 tally, be a strong contender to defend his Tour Finals title and win his first ever non-French Open major.