© Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Daniil Medvedev and Gilles Cervara focus on the process of improving every day.

Cervara On Medvedev: 'Winning Doesn’t Change Anything For Us'

Defending champ's coach reflects on Russian's success

Defending champion Daniil Medvedev is back in the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals, where he will play tournament debutant Casper Ruud for a place in the championship match.

It has been another impressive season for Medvedev, who won his first major title at the US Open and firmly entrenched himself at No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. The Russian has also won four of his nine sets against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic this year, proving a difficult foe for the Serbian star. The pair could face one another again in the final in Turin if they win their semi-finals at the Pala Alpitour.

ATPTour.com caught up with Medvedev’s coach, Gilles Cervara, before the tournament to discuss his charge’s success, his budding rivalry with Djokovic and more.

How much did things change with Daniil’s US Open win?
I would say they didn’t, really. I didn’t see any difference in anything right now. We try to do the same, to try to do the best all the time. That’s our goal. 

When you win a major, that’s life-changing. So how important has it been that he has stayed the same?
It helps you to try to keep focussing on the performance. When I say performance, it’s all the things around tennis: the physical side, mental side, the things we can still improve. There are a lot of things to improve all the time. 

Of course the details are getting smaller and smaller. When I was younger, I read many times that Rafa said, ‘I need to improve this, this and this.’ I realised it’s exactly the same for us. It just becomes small details.

Success changes some people, but it seems like with Daniil that’s not the case. He still wants to play video games and all the usual stuff. How nice is it for you as a coach that he’s the same guy?
It makes the priorities still the same. The work on court and outside the court is about performance. We keep the same goals and focus on practice.

Medvedev

Daniil has been playing Novak a lot lately in important matches. Is it fun for you as a coach to try to solve that puzzle?
Yes, it is. It’s fun for me because I like to analyse many things to find solutions. Before the Paris final, we expected Novak could change something in his game and he did. Again, I read many times… I read that Agassi said Sampras made him better and Sampras said Agassi made him better. It’s exactly the same. When you play top players like this, after each match you try to find the solution to solve the problem. It can be the same for us if we have a chance to play Novak this week.

How tricky is it when he changes the game plan so much like he did in Paris and then you have to wonder if he’s going to change again or is he going to do what worked last week?
We know that he’s able to make another type of game. If you keep in your mind that he’s able to play like this, it makes you a bit more ready if it happens again. But now it’s our turn to find the solution first.

The Nitto ATP Finals was very important for Daniil last year. Just how important was it for him?
The good thing is I feel that winning doesn’t change anything for us. It means we want to win more and more and more. It’s just normal. When you come on court to do your best, to make the best shot, the best practice, when you play to win a match, it’s something totally normal for these guys here. It’s their job. 

They are here because they want to win all the time. It’s nothing special. Maybe from outside it looks tough, but in fact it’s like the blood going in the veins. It’s the same.

Of course Novak is year-end No. 1, but is chasing World No. 1 one of the next big goals for Daniil? Or is thinking about that not so good?
It’s okay to think about this, it’s nothing bad. It’s a goal, so it’s trying to reach the goal. For me it’s if you play well, if you win more matches than the other players, then you will become No. 1. It’s just a process. 

When you get closer to this ranking, maybe you start to realise that you can become No. 1 and you want it more.

Every week you’re focussed on improving but have you stopped to think how far you’ve come with Daniil over the past several years?
For myself, from my position, yes. Twenty years ago I couldn’t imagine I could be there even if it wasn’t one of my goals in my career and in my life. 

I realised the road I made to arrive here and it makes this life with a very good taste. I’m proud of myself and realised that maybe I found the different ingredients to reach this position.

<a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/daniil-medvedev/mm58/overview'>Daniil Medvedev</a>

How important is it to finish this week on a high note?
It is important because it also gives a good dynamic for the next season. If not, it gives you another goal, to try to do better for the beginning of the year. 

It comes back to what I said before. It means you want to do the best and finish the week as the winner and feel you are the best and did the best job you could do.

Have you ever had to have a talk with Daniil about that mindset?
For him I think it’s natural and for myself also. It’s like blood in our veins. You don’t think about having blood in the veins. We don’t have to think about it. It just is.

It is one thing for Daniil to get to this very high level, but how big of a challenge is it for him to stay there?
It’s always tough because you never know what can happen. It’s always unstable because you cannot control everything on court. You cannot control everything in your mind week after week. It makes this achievement a big challenge.

What has Daniil improved the most this year?
It’s so many things physically, mentally. Being able to stay at this level week after week. To stay stable during the whole year like this. Even during the clay season, there were tough moments before the French Open. To see he was able to find a good dynamic during the summer, it’s always a good pleasure and good feeling that he was able to find his best any time in the season even if just before it was tough.

All photos credits: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour.