Dominant Daniil: Medvedev Masters Winston-Salem
When Daniil Medvedev was leading Mirza Basic 6-4, 5-0 in the first round of the Winston-Salem Open, he had an interesting thought race through his mind.
"I said, 'I'm so tired'," Medvedev told ESPN. "It was so hot. It was so humid. I was like, 'How am I going to play six matches if I need to win the tournament?' So I thought okay, this is not my tournament. And it became 5-4, his serve, so I thought, 'Okay, that's probably it, that's not my tournament'."
Yet that did not stop the Russian from dominating the field, defeating American Steve Johnson 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday to lift his second ATP World Tour trophy.
“It feels amazing,” Medvedev said. “At the beginning of the week, I didn’t think it was going to be possible because I was playing quite good but I didn’t feel I was at the right form to win a title. I started quite slow the tournament I would say. I could’ve even lost the first match, and finally I won the tournament without dropping a set, which is quite an amazing achievement and I’m really happy about it.”
It was all Medvedev all the time in North Carolina this week, as the 22-year-old won all 12 sets he played to become the first Russian champion in tournament history. The 6’6” right-hander was not broken in the semi-finals or the championship match, extending his FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead against Johnson to 4-1. Not bad for someone who was unsure he'd make it through the event in the first round.
"It's crazy," he said.
Medvedev showed his promise a year ago when he qualified for the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, where he reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual winner Hyeon Chung in five sets. And in the second week of this season, he qualified before claiming his maiden ATP World Tour title in Sydney.
The last time the Russian played Johnson, in Eastbourne earlier this year, the American won in just 76 minutes and created eight break points. But Johnson struggled to make any inroads on Medvedev’s serve, earning just one — in the match's final game — on a sunny day in Winston-Salem.
Medvedev had few problems on his return, though. Johnson entered the final having won 37 of 38 service games in the tournament. But the World No. 57 broke this year’s Houston and Newport titlist twice — once per set — to earn the victory after one hour, 24 minutes. The Russian adds 250 ATP Rankings points and $92,905 in prize money.
It was clear from the early going that the match would depend on Johnson’s ability to get out of backhand-to-backhand rallies, pitting his knifing slice against Medvedev’s low-flying two-hander. The American’s best shot is his forehand, but the champion did a great job of keeping the home favourite pinned in the backhand corner. And when Johnson did dance around a backhand to hit a forehand, shots were typically well below his waist, making them difficult to attack.
"He played really well. Didn't make many errors, and unfortunately, it wasn't my best day of tennis. But that's life," Johnson said. "I didn't find a way to get it done on some of the big points and hopefully I'll clean up a few things when I play on Monday at the US Open."
Johnson was trying to become the ninth player since 2010 to claim a tour-level trophy on all three trophies in one season, and the first American to do so since Sam Querrey in 2010. The World No. 34 earns 150 points and $52,895.
"Hopefully we'll get up to New York and have a great couple weeks," Johnson said on court after the match. "Maybe I'll finish that trifecta up in New York."
Did You Know?
Medvedev is the second Winston-Salem champion in a row to win the title without dropping a set. Roberto Bautista Agut claimed all 10 of his sets in 2017.