© Hiroshi Sato

Daniil Medvedev, who competes in the Tokyo quarter-finals on Friday, has become more professional in his nutrition and training for tennis.

Medvedev Focuses On Continuing His Rise

Russian draws upon the experience of compatriots to develop

This time last year, Daniil Medvedev was in the middle of an eight-match losing streak. The Russian had steadily improved — from the end of the 2015 season until last July, he climbed from No. 331 to No. 49 in the ATP Rankings. But the 6’6” right-hander had not quite found the consistency he was looking for.

So could Medvedev have envisioned that just 12 months later, he’d own his first two ATP World Tour titles and be moving to the verge of the Top 30 this week at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018?

“Probably not, but at the same time I was working hard for it,” Medvedev said. “I was expecting to play better, but I was not maybe expecting to go up that fast as I did in the second part of the season. But it means I’ve been doing a good job and I will continue doing it."

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It’s clear that Medvedev is now a force to be reckoned with on the ATP World Tour. Last year, the Monte-Carlo resident qualified for the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals, impressively advancing to the semi-finals. But in 2018, he has stepped it up another notch by already tallying 33 tour-level match wins.

Before the season, the Russian owned just 29 for his entire career. That’s not bad for a player who up until a couple of years ago didn’t entirely believe he could make it in professional tennis.

“I think the real point was the year when I got to the Top 100 [in 2016]. I started the year like 330 which is okay, that’s not that bad. But at the same time you don’t make a living, you only lose money on tennis if you are No. 330. So at that moment I was still thinking that it would be really tough to be a real professional tennis player in the Top 100,” Medvedev said. “Then I just made a great year playing great tennis and I finished the year in 99th spot. That’s when I understood that I could get in some ATP tournaments and that I was on the way up.”

Medvedev didn’t always do things the right way. He didn’t necessarily eat the right foods, nor did he get the most out of his practices. But that doesn’t mean that the potential wasn’t always there to break through.

“I was always dreaming big, because I knew I had some talent or something in me to play good, because I was not bad in juniors and compared to other guys I was zero professional,” Medvedev said. “I was not thinking good on court and I still managed to be in the Top 20 in juniors. At one moment when I started to take tennis more seriously, I knew I would have a chance, if I did everything right, to be where I am right now.”

Many of today’s players are defined by certain characteristics on the court. Juan Martin del Potro’s rocket forehand, Alexander Zverev’s impenetrable backhand and John Isner’s thunderous serve stick out. But Medvedev is paving his path toward the top of the sport in a different way.

“I have an all-around game. I don’t have some weak spots that you can attack and you can definitely beat me,” Medvedev said. “I have a good serve. It’s not the best on the Tour, but it’s helping me to stay alive in the match sometimes. I can return good. For my height, I think I can run quite well. So as I said, I think it’s just the all-around game that sometimes the guy doesn’t know what to do against me to win.”

And that feeling of uncertainty Medvedev can give opponents has helped put him in a position where he isn’t a heavy underdog against some of the world’s best, whereas that might not have been the case last year. When the Russian faces former World No. 3 Milos Raonic in Friday’s quarter-finals in Tokyo, he will be in with a fighting chance.

“No matter who I play, I will try to win every match I play because that’s how you get points to go higher in the rankings. It doesn’t change any vision I have,” Medvedev said. “Milos is a tough opponent I think for everybody. Even if you’re Roger [Federer], it’s not easy to play Milos.”

While Medvedev is only 22, it’s been a long journey. At eight years old, he remembers watching compatriot Marat Safin win the 2005 Australian Open on television. That was somebody to idolise, and it doesn’t feel that long ago.

“Suddenly I am [near the] Top 30 now. I haven’t won Australia yet but I am here. I can talk to him. He knows who I am and all the other guys are our coaches on the Davis Cup team,” said Medvedev referencing the likes of former World No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko. “This is quite cool because I couldn’t imagine it when I was younger. I was just dreaming about it.”

Medvedev is living in the moment. He hasn’t thought back to those moments as a child when he dreamt of being where he is today.

“If I did, I would probably be surprised,” Medvedev said. “If I would know it back then, I would not believe it. But, honestly, I don’t look back. Whatever happened is in the past. I’m just looking for the future.”

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