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Daniil Medvedev’s Clay Conundrum: Can He Conquer Roland-Garros?

Daniil Medvedev in action ahead of the ATP Monte Carlo Masters.

As clay season comes to an end with Roland-Garros, none may be happier than Daniil Medvedev. The Russian has previously expressed his contempt for clay. For example, at last year’s French Open, after his shocking exit in Round 1 against Thiago Seyboth Wild. He said, “Today, because [of the] wind, dry court, I had a mouthful of clay since probably the third game of the match, and I don’t like it.”

Medvedev’s form this year has been fluctuating. He kicked off this year with a spot at the final of a Grand Slam at the Australian Open but was beaten by a confident Jannik Sinner. He had started the match off well, with strong serves and grabbing points at the net, winning the first two sets 3-6, 3-6. However, in the third set, Medvedev’s energy seemed to have dropped off, and Sinner’s strong comeback became more difficult to hold off, ending in the Russian’s defeat. The Italian took the final three sets, 6-4 6-4 6-3.

In the Dubai Tennis Championship, he reached the semifinal round. He lost 5–7 3–6 to Ugo Humbert. The Frenchman seized control of the first set, pushing the top seed wide with his sliding lefty serve. In the second set, after blowing a break advantage, he rallied to win the match.

At the Indian Wells Masters, Medvedev showed great form, defeating youngsters Holger Rune and Tommy Paul. Against Paul, Medvedev had lost to him 6-1 but overcame it to win in three sets, demonstrating his resolve. The exhausting semifinal had concluded late in the evening which meant that the recovery period was a concern–he had to play an energetic Carlos Alcaraz in less than 24 hours, a player that needs him to be as quick-witted and aware as possible. In 2023, Alcaraz had defeated Medvedev before, controlling the net and taking advantage of the Russian’s deep court positioning. In 2024, the Spaniard went on to defend his title, 7-6(5), 6-1.

At the Miami Open, he met with Sinner again at the semi-final. Instead of starting the game on the back wall, as he usually does, Medvedev moved closer to the baseline inside Hard Rock Stadium. He ultimately returned to his deep position but was unable to capitalize on any of his three break attempts, which ended in his defeat 1–6, 2–6.

When clay season began in the sunny principality of Monaco, Medvedev had failed to make it past Round 3. A close match against Karen Khachanov ended in his defeat, 6-3 7-5. And so the Russian set his eyes on the Madrid Open. In Madrid, Medvedev played his way to the quarter-finals against Jiri Lehecka. Unfortunately, he suffered a thigh injury during the first set and had to withdraw after losing it 6-4.

At the Italian Open, Medvedev was fighting to defend his title. In the fourth round, he faced American Tommy Paul once again, who stunned the crowd with a dominant 6-1 6-4, defeat of the Russian.

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Reaching the final of the Australian Open and going deep in other events, Medvedev has had a strong start to the year. He has, however, faced difficulty in winning tournaments, suffering crushing defeats to the likes of Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz in finals and semifinals. His results on clay have been inconsistent, as evident by his early exits and unfortunate retirements.

He faces Dominik Koepfer in the first round, who has been improving in form. Ranked #67 in the world, Koepfer stunned top seed Ugo Humber of the Lyon Open and reached the quarterfinal last week. He is hoping to bring that consistent form to Paris. The clay offers an opportunity for retribution to Koepfer, who was defeated by Medvedev at the Miami Open back in March, but the Russian has won all three of their previous matches.

As the World no.5 gears up for the grandeur of the French Open, he is certainly facing an uphill battle. However, his tenacity and strategic adjustments will be key as he seeks to conquer the clay and make a deep run in Paris

Main Photo Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports


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