Daniil Medvedev: 'After The Summer, I Had No Fear'
Only three months ago, Daniil Medvedev was mired in a five-match losing streak. Four of those matches went to a deciding set, and the Russian was worrying about his results.
“Of course you can have fear, but it's more when you are in the down moment, like I was this year once,” Medvedev said. “That's when you have fear going out on the court. You're like, ‘Am I going to lose again? Am I going to win or not?’”
But when the 23-year-old walked onto Arthur Ashe Stadium Sunday afternoon for the US Open final, those negative thoughts were out of his mind. Medvedev arrived in the championship match in the form of his career, winning 20 of his 22 North American summer hard-court matches leading into the final against World No. 2 Rafael Nadal. There was no pressure, just excitement at the prospect of potentially winning a Grand Slam title.
“After the summer I had no fear. I had everything to win. I think it's Rafa who had something to lose,” Medvedev said. “I went out there, I gave everything I could, and I'm proud of myself.”
Medvedev lost the match, but he showed why he will climb to a career-high World No. 4 on Monday. The tournament’s fifth seed was down two sets and a break against one of tennis’ greatest legends. But the Russian scratched and clawed his way back into the match, turning up the aggression and battling his way into a fifth set, and earning three break points at 1-0 in the decider.
“Even though it's my first Grand Slam final, I've been playing tennis for 17 years. Had a lot of big matches, not as big as this one. I'm ready for these moments to just be there and try to win the match,” Medvedev said. “It's not the matter of focus or fear or any deconcentration in the fifth set. It's just the matter of two tennis players fighting against each other, because I always said tennis is a tough sport because you're only against yourself and your opponent. You don't have a team behind you to support you. You don't have anyone.
“It was exactly this: two players fighting each other. He was the better one today. I have to admit it. I have no regrets.”
That’s because finding a way to a fifth set seemed improbable a couple of hours into the match. After Medvedev broke early in the first set, Nadal wrestled control away to put himself just three service holds away from triumphing in straight sets. And when the Spaniard gains momentum, it’s like trying to stop a freight train without breaks. So digging out of that hole was an accomplishment in itself.
“I was thinking, ‘Okay, in 20 minutes I have to give a speech. What do I say?’” Medvedev said. “I was like, ‘Okay, okay, just fight for every point, don't think about these things.’ It worked out not bad. Was I close to winning? Yes, one set away.
“I had break points at 5-4 [in the fifth set]. I will remember everything of it. I will be disappointed with the result, but I will be happy with the way I played the whole summer, the whole US Open.”
Medvedev could have been devastated by his defeat, after fighting so hard and coming up just short in the world’s biggest tennis stadium with a Grand Slam title on the line. But instead, he was plenty jovial in his post-match press conference.
“I definitely will remember tonight. I'm sure even talking about Rafa's 19 Grand Slams, I'm sure he remembers his first final, even though he won it and I lost it,” Medvedev said. “[It] was [an] amazing match. It's an amazing story. All this summer is amazing for me. I will remember every moment of it. I have a really good memory if we talk about tennis. I'll definitely remember it even when I'm 70 years old!”
It’s been a tremendous journey over the past two weeks for Medvedev, who had never advanced past the fourth round of a Grand Slam. His best previous result at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center came last year, when he reached the third round. So there is plenty to be proud of despite Sunday’s result.
“Sometimes I didn't play as good as I wanted, but I managed to be in the final. I managed to give huge fight to one of the best players in the history of our sport,” Medvedev said. “[I] have to give myself credit. I hope I grew a lot doing these things. But I need to continue and I need to be better.”
Medvedev will not be defined by this loss. At 23, he reminded the world a bit of the man who won the match: Nadal. Not once did Medvedev stop competing, and that’s what the countless fans who watched from around the world will remember, not the score.
“I knew I will be in the final of US Open, I will fight for every ball, no matter if it's 6-0, 6-0, 5-0, 40-Love, I'll just try to win one more point to say myself, Okay, I've done everything I could,” Medvedev said. “I can say I've done everything I could today.”
Medvedev also came full circle with the New York fans. During his runner-up speech, the capacity crowd loudly cheered for the Russian.
"I was being myself. I was fighting for every point. I think they appreciated it," Medvedev said. "I felt that these guys wanted some more tennis. They were cheering me up like crazy. I knew I had to leave my heart out there for them also. For myself first of all, but for them also. I think they saw it and they appreciated it. I'm thankful to them for this."