Quietly, Medvedev Chases No. 1 In Paris
Coming into the clay-court major, it was known that Medvedev had a mathematical chance of becoming the 27th player to reach World No. 1. But given that the Russian had never won a round at Roland Garros in four prior attempts, the discussion seemed more academic than grounded in reality.
On day one, Dominic Thiem, who reached two consecutive finals in Paris in 2018-19, crashed out in the first round, throwing the bottom half of the draw even wider open. Then, Medvedev, treating the terre battue more like hard court, claimed his first Roland Garros win over Alexander Bublik and backed that up Wednesday with a four-set win over Tommy Paul to move into the third round.
The reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion, who is the only player on the bottom half of the draw who has made multiple Grand Slam finals (2019 US Open, 2021 Australian Open), is now eyeing a run all the way to the final, which might be good enough for him to replace Djokovic at No. 1.
If Medvedev reaches the final and Djokovic does not make the championship match, the Russian will become the first player outside the Big Four (Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray) to reach tennis’ pinnacle since Andy Roddick in November 2003. If Medvedev wins his first Grand Slam title in Paris, he will ascend to World No. 1 regardless of Djokovic’s performance.
On 15 March, Medvedev moved to World No. 2 for the first time, breaking the Big Four's stranglehold on the top two spots. Before Medvedev, the last player outside the Big Four to hold a place in the top two was Lleyton Hewitt in July 2005.
For now, the Russian will be focussed on his third-round match Friday against 32nd seed Reilly Opelka.
Djokovic, who fell to Nadal in last year's final, is on the same half of the draw as the 13-time champion and in the same quarter as 20-time major winner Federer. It is possible the Serbian will have to go through both to advance to the final.
The highest-seeded player besides Medvedev on the bottom half of the draw is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, with whom he shares the bottom quarter. If the Greek star claims his maiden major crown this fortnight, he will climb to World No. 3 if Nadal does not reach the final. The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion is at a career-high World No. 5.