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Tennis Has Another Temperamental Star In Daniil Medvedev • Its Been A Long Hot Summer

By Alix Ramsay

We may have mentioned before that the good people of New York regard themselves as a race apart. They are hard. They are street wise. They are not to be frightened easily. And they like you to know it.

But New York was not ready for Daniil Medvedev. Come to think of it, almost no one has been ready for Daniil Medvedev this summer but we will get to that bit later. No, New York thought that it could teach the tall, thin Russian a lesson. But New York was wrong.

On Friday night, Daniil was roundly – and loudly – booed by the crowd as he beat Feliciano Lopez. It was a long four-setter and everyone’s nerves were fraying at the edges. Our Russian bean pole incited the ire of all around by being a bit testy with a ballkid and by making a rude, but not uncommon gesture, to his tormentors in the stands. He would have got away with it, too, had it not been caught on camera and replayed on the big screen at the change of ends. When it was, everyone joined in the act and started booing the bloke from Moscow.

But rather than being chastened by this outpouring of displeasure from the crowd, Daniil was lovin’ it. As he gave his on-court interview, he told anyone who would listen that the more they booed the better he played. Good work, guys: Danny-Boy won because of you.

Medvedev, though, is not a bad fella. Afterwards, once tempers and pulse rates had settled, he knew he had not handled the situation particularly well.

“I was an idiot, to be honest,” he said. “I did some things that I’m not proud of and that I’m working on to be a better person on the court because I do think I’m a good person [off] the court.”

So he went and did it all again against Dominik Koepfer in the next round. This time he was dancing his way to the net to shake hands once he had beaten the unheralded German in four sets. That was a bit like lighting the blue touch paper on a firework: the crowd was booing and braying in an instant. Again, he encouraged them to boo more, boo louder, because they more they hated him, the better he liked it. Who’s the hard piece now?

There were a few boos, too, when he got to work against Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday but this time it was different. Now he was on the verge of reaching his first major semi-final (and if he did, he was about to claim his place in the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals) and now he was a serious contender for the silverware.

Why no one had realised this before is something of mystery. Over the course of the hard court summer, no one has played and won as much as Medvedev. He had clocked up 21 matches since leaving Wimbledon, he has reached three finals and won one of them (Cincinnati). He has been all but untouchable for two months. And despite having his leg heavily strapped, despite being sore and tired after so much effort (and contemplating retiring during the first set), he was better, stronger and more determined than Wawrinka to win 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

“In the first two sets, I didn’t have any emotions because I was thinking, I’m losing the match because of my leg,” he said. “I’m either going to retire or come back to the locker room in one hour as the loser of the match. 

“Then when it was like 5-3 in the second, I was like, OK, now I’m starting to get stressed because I’m close to being 2-0 up in the sets. I’m definitely not going to retire when it’s 2-0 up for me!

“I felt the way I won was quite ugly, because that’s what I had to do. I am still really painful in my leg. I knew I have to play without rhythm. Some games I have to not run to relax my leg. I was hitting full power, then suddenly I was doing dropshots in the middle. In crucial moments maybe it will make him miss. That’s what has worked. Of course, I would prefer to win in a normal way with a normal tennis game, but that’s how I won.”  

As for his relationship with the New Yorkers, he is not sure that they are completely in love yet but it is a definitely a relationship in progress.

“It’s not for me to decide [whether the crowd now likes me],” he smiled. “As I said in the post-match, even after the previous round, what I got I deserved. Usually I’m not like this, as I was in the third round match. I’m not proud of it. I’m working to be better. Hopefully I can show the bright side of myself.”

But if he has to face Roger Federer in the next round and if he should beat Roger Federer in the next round, the budding affair may well be over. He will be back to being the villain of the piece. Not that Daniil and his gammy leg seem to mind: being the bad boy of the US Open is suiting him just fine.

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