© Mike Gray/ATP Tour

Daniil Medvedev is a master of "first-strike tennis," but also excels in extended rallies.

Why Plotting A Game Plan Against Daniil Medvedev Is A Nightmare

The long and short of Russian’s success formula comes to life

Daniil Medvedev excels in the art of tactical deception.

He is a “First Strike” assassin who also masquerades as a king of consistency. Nobody plays more long, grueling points than the Russian, but at the same time, nobody is as efficient at winning the short rallies. You think he is all about the long while he is fleecing you at the short.

An Infosys ATP Insights deep dive into rally length data from the start of the 2019 season uncovers the paradoxical nature of Medvedev’s game. He is incredibly gifted at both very short and very long rallies. The data set comprises players who have contested a minimum of 20 matches on Hawk Eye courts at tour-level events since the beginning of the 2019 season.

Long Rallies of 9+ Shots
This is where Medvedev has forged his identity. The 6’6” Moscow native continually clubs ultra-flat groundstrokes that get through the court fast and low, giving opponents a much different look than the regular “heavy” topspin ball most players employ.

Stefanos Tsitsipas said in August 2019 that Medvedev has “… a very weird game. It’s very sloppy, but a good sloppy. He’s just very uncomfortable to play against.” Tsitsipas added, “He has this completely different way of playing, flat and low, without giving you much angle to work with. It can be very disturbing to play against him. He can make you miss without understanding why you missed.”

With the data set, Medvedev has played the most rallies of 9+ shots (1393) since the beginning of the 2019 season, confounding opponents with myriad balls that annoyingly come back out of a player’s strike zone. Medvedev has won 52.5 per cent (731/1393) of those points, with Yoshihito Nishioka having the highest win percentage at 56.6 per cent (392/693).

The leading five players who have played the most extended rallies of 9+ shots are:

1. Daniil Medvedev = 1393
2. Gael Monfils = 1309
3. Novak Djokovic = 1285
4. Stefanos Tsitsipas = 1227
5. Roberto Bautista Agut = 1066

“First Strike” Rallies of 0-4 Shots
Medvedev will punish you in long rallies and also in short ones. Nobody had a higher win percentage in the data set in 0-4 shot rallies than the Russian. Those data showcase his versatility to also dominate with just the first two shots he hits in a rally.

The leading five players who had the highest win percentage in the 0-4 shot rally length are:

1. Daniil Medvedev = 54.98%
2. Stan Wawrinka = 54.04%
3. John Isner = 53.97%
4. Roger Federer = 53.75%
5. Novak Djokovic = 53.54%

Medvedev was a pedestrian 25th best in 5-8 shot rallies, winning just 50.86 per cent (1031/2027). The disparity of short and long points is where he thrives.

There is a reason why opponents, like Tsitsipas, find the Russian so uncomfortable and perplexing to play. They can’t pin down his game style. They can’t figure out whether to attack early in the point or try to forge an advantage by extending it. Medvedev hurts you at both ends of the spectrum without leaving a tell-tale trail of how and why.