Djokovic On Medvedev Epic: 'Exciting, Exhausting, Joyful, Dreadful All At Once'
To say Novak Djokovic rode a roller coaster on Saturday would be an understatement. The World No. 2 navigated his way through plenty of ups and downs to squeak past Daniil Medvedev in two hours and 48 minutes.
But it wasn’t the length of the match that made it special; it was the intensity. Djokovic and Medvedev engaged in gut-busting rallies that at times left the Serbian bent over, not because he’s not as fit as they come, but because of the physicality of the points.
“Exciting, exhausting, joyful, dreadful all at once,” Djokovic said. “At one point I think we both refused to miss from [the] baseline, so it was a lot of rallies and it was very exhausting. Very physical battle, but also [a] mental battle.”
In a way, Djokovic was looking himself in the mirror. After the 31-minute first set, in which Medvedev made 12 unforced errors from 46 points, the Russian buckled down and forced the Serbian to do something special to win a point, lengthening the rallies and turning the match into a battle of attrition.
“You have to try to use the various tactics and variations in the game itself, the rotation in the ball, and not really give him always the same look because it seems like he's a machine,” Djokovic said. “I feel the same when I'm in lockdown, so it was a very physical battle. Some amazing points obviously.
“[It was] definitely one of the most exciting matches I have played against him or any other top player [in the] past few years.”
Djokovic left no doubt that the pro-Serbian crowd inside Ken Rosewall Arena helped push him over the finish line. There were plenty of reasons Djokovic could have become frustrated against the ultra-consistent Medvedev, but there was no way he was letting down his country’s fans.
“I love playing for Serbia and for my country, and team competitions is something that gets me going tremendously,” Djokovic said. “I love it. I love the experiences, the emotions. Nenad [Zimonjic] is our captain. All of the guys on the team are dear friends of mine, some of the best friends I have in my life. I have known them for over 20 years.
“So to get to share these kind of quality moments on and off the court with them, it feels like you're traveling with a family. That gives you even more reason to keep on playing.
“That’s why I wouldn't say that I'm really fully focussed on Melbourne. Of course that's where I want to play my best, but this time is different, because ATP Cup is really, is more special. I really enjoy it because of all of the things that I just stated.”
Djokovic has already overcome plenty of obstacles during the first event of the season, beating the likes of Kevin Anderson, Denis Shapovalov and Medvedev. And now, he will face his biggest challenge yet in World No. 1 Rafael Nadal when Serbia faces Spain for the championship.
It doesn’t take much to get the 77-time tour-level champion going. But he will be keen to extend his 28-26 ATP Head2Head series lead against the lefty legend.
“It's the beginning of the season, and I'm not the only player that feels and talks this way, but I'm very motivated,” Djokovic said. “I'm inspired to play my best tennis.”