© Rolex Shanghai Masters – Mike Frey

Daniil Medvedev does not face a break point en route to a straight-sets victory against Fabio Fognini on Friday.

The 'Golden Rule' That Has Led Medvedev To Stardom

Medvedev, who is into the Shanghai semi-finals, reflects on key advice from childhood coach

World No. 4 Daniil Medvedev has quickly become one of the toughest players to defeat on the ATP Tour with his scrappy style and relentless baseline game. And the Russian, who advanced to the Rolex Shanghai Masters semi-finals on Friday with a victory against Italian Fabio Fognini, says that the way he plays goes back all the way to his childhood.

The Cincinnati champion remembers the coach he had from ages six to 10, who taught him to, ‘fight like crazy’.

“Her Golden Rule was, ‘The one who wins the match is the one who made more balls over the net’, which is easy to understand,” Medvedev said.

That principle has led Medvedev to a breakout season. This time last year, he was outside the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings, falling in the second round in Shanghai. Now he is chasing his second ATP Masters 1000 crown, after reaching his maiden Grand Slam final at the US Open.

But Medvedev doesn’t spend much time reflecting on his rise — even if people around him try to positively remind him of what he’s accomplished. Instead the 23-year-old is focussed on continuing his climb.

“I'm into improving every day, and I think that's how you can reach the top. Because even being here, I could sit down, relax, and say, ‘Yeah, okay, maybe I don't have any points to defend till next summer, so I can be relaxed,’” Medvedev said. “No, I want to be a better player. I want to play better every day. That's why I don't have time to look back and [I am] only looking forward and staying in the present.”

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The rest of the ATP Tour has taken notice. Before facing Medvedev, Fognini paid the highest of compliments to the Russian.

“He's [the] worst player that I can play at the moment, because he changed completely in the summer,” Fognini said. “Of course he was also great before, but he made [an] unbelievable change during the U.S. swing, and he's dangerous. He's really dangerous.”

Medvedev didn’t want to evaluate Fogini’s statement, but he was thrilled that a player of the Italian’s calibre thought that of him, showing the progress he has made.

“It just makes me pleased. But if some top players like Fabio can say this about me, shows that I'm on the good way, I'm playing good, and it's not easy to play against me,” Medvedev said. “That's what I tried to show today on the match and it worked out.”

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Medvedev has had no visible lull in recent months. The six-time ATP Tour champion — who has lifted three trophies this year — has made the final or emerged victorious in five straight tournaments he has played, and he can make it six on Saturday against Stefanos Tsitsipas, who upset World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

“I worry in a good way that I know I need to keep focussed. I know I need to keep working every day hard in order not to lose this level,” Medvedev said. “Talking about yesterday, I don't think I played good, but managed to win, managed to go through a really tough match where I saved five set points in the first set.

“It can be in one match that you drop your level and then you bring it up. So for sure I'm aware of this, and I'm going to try to do my best to never let it down.”

Medvedev will take confidence into his match against Tsitsipas, leading the Greek 4-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. But none of those victories came in straight sets, and the Russian is ready for a battle.

“Even though I’ve won all of the matches, they were all really tight. He's improving also every week. He's still so young,” Medvedev said. “Let's see who wins first.”