Coaches Corner

Cervara: Why Medvedev Needs To Find The Superhero Within Himself speaks to the French coach ahead of the US Open semis
September 08, 2023
Daniil Medvedev is chasing his second US Open title.
Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
Daniil Medvedev is chasing his second US Open title. By Andrew Eichenholz

Gilles Cervara is well aware of the challenge his player, Daniil Medvedev, will face Friday when he plays defending champion and top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals. According to the Frenchman, players need to find a level beyond their best to compete with the likes of the Spaniard.

“To beat the best you have to play probably over your level, you have to find something different. You have to be in almost the best day of your year, and you have to create the conditions for this,” Cervara told “I think and I really believe as a person and as a coach that you have to find something deeper inside yourself, to be someone stronger and stronger.

“If I use an example, you probably know Dragon Ball Z. Superhero. You have to find this power inside yourself to be like a superhero, to be over the best you can do. That's what I think. And sports in general, I've always seen this all over the years. The No. 1 is almost unbeatable but someone is able to play over his best this day to beat him. And I think tomorrow is the day like this.”

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In other words, a player needs to go into Super Saiyan mode. Medvedev will try to do just that as he tries to level his Lexus ATP Head2Head series with Alcaraz at 2-2.

“I really believe that it's really possible if you find this energy, this mentality, this fire,” Cervara said. “Of course in your game, your game becomes stronger and stronger and then your opponent looks not to be at his best this day also because you are over this.

“Daniil is one of the players able to do it.”

According to Cervara, Medvedev does not necessarily need to prepare differently for a challenge like playing Alcaraz or Novak Djokovic. It just requires a different level of focus.

“It's just your margin of error or the margin of the good or the bad choices are getting like this,” Cervara said, pinching his fingers together. “You can always find something against lower players. Against the [best players]... your margin is very, very thin.”

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Medvedev defeated close friend Andrey Rublev in straight sets in the quarter-finals, but made use of his margin for error earlier in the tournament, when he lost a set to Christopher O’Connell and Alex de Minaur. For the fourth time in the past five years, the 2021 champion is into the US Open semi-finals.

“It's great to be there. First of all, in general, it's very good to be there anywhere, and especially when you didn't win so many matches. For guys like Daniil, every time you play a tournament, especially [ATP] Masters 1000s, you want to go to the final or to win the tournament for sure,” Cervara said. “And when you lose before those guys, maybe not all of them, but a guy like Daniil, then it becomes very, very tough every day. So everything can be difficult and you have to manage this every day.

“So it's a lot of pressure, a lot of tension. And even if, from my perspective, as a coach, I always try to give the good side of what happened."

Cervara felt that even in Medvedev’s quarter-final loss in Toronto (to Alex de Minaur) and third-round defeat in Cincinnati (to Alexander Zverev), there were plenty of positives from which the World No. 3 could be confident.

“But inside the player, he just sees that he doesn't win, so it's s***. And then you have to manage this negative feeling even if you feel that it's not that bad. And you can feel the good things. So it makes the work very, very tough,” Cervara said. “When finally at the end during the major he plays good, you feel much better and you feel that yeah, my point of view was the good one, it was the right one.”

On Thursday morning Cervara went for a boxing session, an activity he enjoys throughout the world. The Frenchman felt his performance was not good enough and the coach told him he was being too hard on himself.

“I was laughing in my mind, because I was like, 'Yeah, I know exactly how Daniil feels in that moment', and I was like, ‘Yes’,” Cervara said. “But also, this dissatisfaction is also the engine to do better and better. But at the same time it puts you always in tension and frustration.”

So what flip did Medvedev switch at Flushing Meadows to raise his level and battle into the last four at the season’s final major, finding the form that helped him win five titles earlier in 2023?

“It's tough to talk about this now because tomorrow we play a semi-final, so the tournament still is going on and I want to focus on the next step,” Cervara said. “And it's a huge, huge step.”

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