Daniil Medvedev had a fantastic end to 2020, reaching the semifinals of the US Open and beating seven Top 10 players to win the Paris Masters and the World Tour Finals.
It set a very high bar for 2021. Did the world #2 live up to expectations or did he fall just short of what he could have achieved?
Daniil Medvedev: Champion in New York
The only place one could start when writing Medvedev’s season review…
Medvedev had been knocking on the door for a couple of years having lost to Nadal in the 2019 US Open final and Djokovic in the 2021 Australian Open final. He finally broke the door down, winning his maiden Slam at the 2021 US Open, dropping only one set on his way to the title (dropped to Botic Van De Zandschulp in the quarterfinals).
Though Djokovic was nervy in the final, Medvedev put on an outstanding performance, playing tactically astute tennis.
- Medvedev hit massive second-serves, giving Djokovic no rhythm on return whatsoever.
- Medvedev directed his forehand (the weaker of his two groundstrokes) towards Djokovic’s backhand but near enough the middle of the court to make it a high-percentage shot. This prompted more backhand cross-court rallies which fell right into the Russian’s wheelhouse.
Medvedev also benefitted from having played Djokovic eight times and having played in two Slam finals previously. His experience and mastery of the surface he’d dominated for the last couple of years culminated in this career highlight.
A Worthy World #2
It wasn’t all about the US Open for Medvedev this year, however.
Medvedev has truly cemented himself as the second-best player in the world. Along with picking up his first Grand Slam title, Medvedev won three other titles; a fourth Masters title and first in Toronto, his first grass-title in Mallorca and an indoor-title in Marseille.
It’s easy to forget that making the finals of tournaments is an achievement in and of itself; he finished runner-up at the World Tour Finals, the Australian Open and the Paris Masters.
Clearly, Medvedev consistently went deep in tournaments, holding the joint-record this year for most finals played at seven (joint with Djokovic).
Tough to Beat
More so than ever before, the Muscovite has been making himself incredibly tough to beat.
- Medvedev is the only man or woman this season to win over 60 matches.
- Medvedev went an insane 42-1 against players ranked outside the Top 30 this season (only loss to Jan-Lennard Struff in Halle).
- Even on clay, famously his least favourite surface, Medvedev stepped up. At the French Open, he made the quarterfinals, only losing to eventual finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The man couldn’t stop winning matches…
There was the occasional match this year where Medvedev let the ball drop.
- In Miami, Medvedev lost fairly comfortably to Roberto Bautista Agut. With nobody else in the draw having previously won a Masters, this felt like a golden opportunity missed.
- Having otherwise played so well for his country (unbeaten at the ATP Cup and the Davis Cup in Russia’s title runs this year), Medvedev lost to Pablo Carreno Busta at the Tokyo Olympics. Both RBA and PCB possess similarly solid backhands to Medvedev’s – he couldn’t outplay either at his own game on these days.
- In Indian Wells, Medvedev lost to Grigor Dimitrov from a set and a double break up. For four service games in a row, the Russian could only land three or four first serves. Dimitrov mopped up with his slice in the rallies (perfect counter to Medvedev’s flat backhand) and won eight games in a row, ultimately an unassailable lead.
Daniil Medvedev’s Season Review
Well? Did the world #2 live up to expectations or did he fall just short of what he could have achieved?
Overall, Medvedev’s achievements this year far outshine his shortcomings. Not only did he prove himself a threat on every surface, Medvedev won over and over again on hard-courts; 50 wins on this surface alone, two team titles, three singles titles (including the US Open of course) and three other high-profile finals are too much to look passed.
Though the negatives were nitpicky in the grand scheme of his season, there was the slightest thread of Medvedev’s serve letting him down in some of his losses. Nothing to worry about yet, just something for him to keep an eye on.
Daniil Medvedev and his fans should be extremely pleased with his performance this year. Fingers crossed he can carry that momentum into 2022.
Main Photo from Getty.