'I like to play Novak': Medvedev lays down challenge

  • Alex Sharp

Daniil Medvedev is playing at a scary level and he knows it. 

“Of course, for the confidence, when you beat everybody is just great, because I think people start to be a little bit scared about you,” he said after toppling Stefanos Tsitsipas in Friday night's Australian Open 2021 semifinal. 

MORE: Masterful Medvedev marches past Tsitsipas

The Russian, up to world No.2 if he lifts the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup on Sunday, is through to his second Grand Slam final.

Medvedev, the “man to beat” according to opponent world No.1 Novak Djokovic, will attempt to snatch away the defending champion’s title to lift his maiden major. 

Will Daniil Medvedev get another chance to sign the camera at AO2021?

The 25-year-old is now undefeated in 20 matches, 12 of which against top 10 opponents, connecting with astounding shots to dismantle fifth seed Tsitsipas 6-4 6-2 7-5. 

“I remember one moment when I was already playing quite good I actually was struggling with the top 10 guys when I was maybe around top 20 or top 30," said Medvedev.

South African Kevin Anderson inflicted his last defeat in October in Vienna.
“It was a great match to win in straight sets, especially with a tough third one. Is a great achievement, second Grand Slam final. Only positives to take from this match,” said Medvedev.

He’s lifted the Paris Masters, ATP Finals and ATP Cup silverware all in a row and now he’s one match away from a major breakthrough on Rod Laver Arena. 

"Experience from the last final is going to be a big key to not get tight."
Daniil Medvedev

It was a water-tight opening two sets against Tsitsipas, Medvedev prolonging the points (17-5 success rate in points over nine shots) having noticed Rafael Nadal’s five set conqueror to be physically drained.

Despite a late charge by the Greek, it was a Medvedev masterclass. 

Looking ahead, the 25-year-old insists he isn’t the favourite on Sunday, knowing that 17-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic is “in the zone he doesn't miss.” 

However, labelling himself the underdog, Medvedev is in the zone too this fortnight. 

“I'm the challenger, the guy that challenges the guy who was eight times in the final and won eight times. And I'm happy about it. I like to play against Novak. We have, since the first one when I was ranked 60, we had always tough matches physically, mentally. And he's one of the greatest tennis players in the history of tennis. So playing a final against him is superb. I'm really happy about it. Let's see what happens on Sunday.”

Relishing the prospect to disrupt Djokovic’s title defence, Medvedev, who prevailed 6-3 6-3 in their most recent encounter at the ATP Finals, isn’t too focused by their head-to-head past.

“I think it doesn't matter that much unless it's, let's say 10-0, then for sure it gets in the head. When it's 4-3 (to Djokovic) I think every match is different. I've played him in Grand Slam only once. Lost it here actually in Australian Open in quite tight match (four sets, 2019) when I was not at the level I am right now.” 

Djokovic claimed in a broadcast interview that the chasing pack, including Medvedev have a “lot of work to do” to shift the power in men’s tennis away from the much heralded Big Three 

“They will be the leaders of the future, but I’m not going to hand it over to them,” insisted the world No.1. “I’m going to make them work their ass off for it.” 

Medvedev doesn’t need any extra motivation for Sunday’s box office battle. 

“When Novak says he's not gonna hand anything to somebody, I believe him. I'm not gonna say I don't trust him. So I know that to beat him you need to just show your best tennis, be at your best physically maybe four or five hours, and be at your best mentally maybe for five hours,” added the fourth seed.  

“I would say to win a slam, especially against somebody as Novak, is already a big motivation, and I don't think there is anything that can make it bigger.” 

While Djokovic has booked his 28th Grand Slam final, Medvedev’s only previous experience was in New York in 2019. 

The Russian levelled from two sets down against Nadal, edged out as the runner up. Now he knows what to expect.

“For me, it's all about experience. For sure it was tight in many moments there. Sometimes it helped me; sometimes not. So I know what it is like, and I know how it's gonna be on Sunday. 

“Experience from the last final is going to be a big key to not get tight and to just play again.” 

Time for the “man to beat” to take his 20-match hot-streak form onto the biggest stage of all.