'Big-Stage Botic': van de Zandschulp On What Makes Medvedev Unique
Botic van de Zandschulp has quickly become a star on the ATP Tour, ranked a career-high No. 24 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The Dutchman’s rise has been so swift, he was outside the Top 100 a year ago and did not get into qualifying at last year’s Western & Southern Open. On Tuesday evening, he will face World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev for a place in the third round of the main draw.
“I actually like the big courts, the big stages. I feel more free when I am playing on a big court. It’s still so different from last year, playing tournaments where not a lot of people were coming to watch,” van de Zandschulp told ATPTour.com. “Of course it’s really nice that it’s happening so fast that I’m playing a lot of big names.”
This will be his third clash against Medvedev in less than a year. Their first meeting came in the quarter-finals of the US Open, where van de Zandschulp made a dream run as a qualifier. The 6’3” right-hander was the only player who won a set against Medvedev at Flushing Meadows.
Despite trailing 0-2 in their ATP Head2Head series, van de Zandschulp has learned a lot about the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals champion’s game.
“He’s returning from so far. Other guys aren’t returning that far, so that was a thing that was different from other matches,” van de Zandschulp said. “It’s insane how he never played a slice when he’s reaching for a backhand. He never plays a slice. Those are things I never faced before so it’s something to get used to. Now I've played him twice and let’s hope the third time is going to be better than the last two times.”
Van de Zandschulp added: “I think when you see it on TV, sometimes the angles he makes with some shots, when you give him an angle, he’s making a better angle when he hits the shot. I think that’s something you don’t see well on the TV and you feel the most when you play against him.”
This time last year, van de Zandschulp had still never been to the United States. His first visit came when he arrived in New York for US Open qualifying. It has been a whirlwind since.
“[It has gone] really quick, actually. I’m still adjusting. I have to say when I normally play tournaments, I played a lot in Europe last year. When I was done with a tournament, I went to another one or went home. Here maybe you have one or two matches if you play a Masters and you practise more than when you play Challengers,” van de Zandschulp said. “Sometimes that’s pretty tough I think to adjust to. You play a little bit less matches for more points. I have to say that’s the most challenging at the moment.”
However challenging, it has not shown in van de Zandschulp’s results. The 26-year-old began the season with 16 tour-level wins and after defeating American Maxime Cressy in the first round in Cincinnati, he has 28 in 2022 alone.
Part of his success has come from how he has handled the pressure of the big stages. Many players initially breaking onto the ATP Tour would take time to acclimatise to it. Not van de Zandschulp, though. Take his mindset entering his match against Medvedev at last year’s US Open, for example.
“I think I walked on court full of confidence. I already played some matches there. Went on court with confidence and I liked the stage because the match before I played on [Louis] Armstrong [Stadium] against Schwartzman and it was a great atmosphere," van de Zandschulp said. "I was really looking forward to play on Arthur Ashe and I didn’t really feel the nerves. I didn’t feel stressed when I walked on court. I felt free and I think that’s how I played in the match as well."
The Dutchman will hope to feel the same way Tuesday in Cincinnati.