Player Features

Medvedev: Beauty can wait, just give me a W

Defending Miami champ switches seamlessly between defence and offence, as conditions require
March 28, 2024
Daniil Medvedev in action against Nicolas Jarry on Thursday in Miami.
Al Bello/Getty Images
Daniil Medvedev in action against Nicolas Jarry on Thursday in Miami. By Andy West

Is Daniil Medvedev the ‘Grandmaster’ of the ATP Tour?

The No. 4 in the PIF ATP Rankings has often been compared to a chess player on court due to the way he outthinks opponents in both cat-and-mouse exchanges from the baseline and overall match strategy.

Few players have Medvedev’s ability to deploy with equal effectiveness a defensive or aggressive game plan depending on what an individual match-up dictates. In the first set of his quarter-final win against Nicolas Jarry at the Miami Open presented by Itau, Medvedev went into lockdown mode, hitting just three winners and four unforced errors, as he allowed the explosive Jarry to be the author of his own demise in the opening stanza.

But the 28-year-old is likely to retool ahead of Friday’s semi-final against Jannik Sinner, where the contest may demand the 28-year-old play more aggressively to prevent the Italian from taking command.

Speaking before the tournament began, Medvedev said that his only preference for the style of game he brings to the court on any given day is the one that is most likely to deliver a victory.

“I think in every sport it is the same when you play defensively,” Medvedev told when asked about whether defensive skills were undervalued in tennis. “People want to see the show, so they want to see offensive shots, and that’s why as soon as Carlos [Alcaraz] came on the Tour, he gained a big fanbase because he crushes the ball.

“I always say, ‘I could do it’, but then I think I would not have the results I have had in my career, and for me the result is the most important. It’s more important than to, let’s say, be beautiful on the court. For Carlos, it doesn’t work this way. That’s the way he plays and that’s the way it works [for him], so it’s kind of a benefit that this way gains fans and gains attention.”

Medvedev was given a far sterner test by Jarry in the second set of Wednesday’s clash. True to form, the defending Miami champion hardly switched to ‘all-out attack’ to counter the Chilean’s rise in level, but he had upped his winner count to 11 for the match by the time he closed out a 6-2, 7-6(7) win to take a 2-0 lead in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series.

So how does Medvedev decide when to step up the aggression himself during a match?

“In general I would say, sometimes you would play offensively, but you feel like sometimes guys like it, [just] like me,” he said. “When the other guy is offensive, [when he] goes to the net, I like it. I can pass him, here or there, I can make him miss.

“Then suddenly he will play defensively, and I will for sure recognise it straight away and try to adapt, but sometimes it can throw you off, because you are like, ‘What do I do? For one set and a half I was winning, I was playing defensively, and now I cannot do it anymore because the other guy started playing defensive’.”

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Awaiting Medvedev in the semi-finals is Sinner, who could hardly be considered a defence-minded player, but Medvedev was nonetheless noticeably attacking against the Italian when they met in the final at January’s Australian Open. The gameplan helped Medvedev open a two-set lead as he chased his second major title, although he was unable to maintain his momentum as Sinner roared back for a five-set triumph.

As Medvedev prepares to take on the red-hot Sinner for the first time since that Melbourne defeat, he might consider once again deploying some big early groundstrokes to prevent the Italian from taking control of rallies. Regardless, Medvedev will be ready to adjust to whatever his rival does in a rematch of the 2023 Miami final — even if only he can see the attraction in it.

“I think [players changing tactics] is how it works sometimes, and that is why tennis is such a beautiful sport,” he said. “When players can mix it up, it is in my opinion even more beautiful.”

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