US Open semifinalist Daniil Medvedev has caused a stir at this year's US Open by playing the bad boy role. The Russian says he learned a lot growing up from watching a former top Russian player -- Marat Safin.
“I saw him play live, on the TV. I was nine years old,” the 23-year-old Medvedev said of his fellow Russian. “He won the Australian Open in the final against Lleyton Hewitt. All of Russia were in front of their TV cheering for him, kind of sending him good energy because he was playing in Australia.
"Watching Marat when we were young, that's why we threw racquet. You're watching him and you think it's cool. You think, 'Okay, I'm going to be like Marat, I'm going to break my racquet right now.'"
But they don't play alike, according to Medvedev. While Safin was known for his big-hitting game and temperamental talent, Medvedev is more consistent.
"It's not easy. Comparing our games, I think we have totally different style. I heard many comparisons of me to former world No. 5 Nikolay Davydenko a little bit," he said, though adding of Safin, "I grew up on his tennis. What he did for Russian tennis is just amazing. He will be forever in Russian tennis history.”
The world No. 5 is also making his mark. During the hardcourt season, he's got an 19-2 record, reaching the finals of Washington and Montreal before winning Cincinnati, then getting to the semifinals of the US Open. Though he has been climbing up the ranks for a couple of seasons, his recent run surprised even himself.
"That's where I've been going step by step. I was improving my rankings. But I am still really surprised with the way these four weeks have been going," said Medvedev. "I mean, so many circumstances. Usually when you make a final like I did in Washington, come to Montreal, you're a little bit tired. You're like saying to yourself, ‘Okay, I've done already a final, maybe this tournament is not that important, I'm a little bit tired.'
"Coming to Cincinnati, same. I had to play. I had one day to relax."
"Again I was like... maybe I should take this tournament easy. Then I won it."
All that play has contributed to him experiencing some physical problems during the tournament, and he has drawn boos from the crowd for his behavior during his third-round victory and interaction with the crowd following the fourth round. But he's kept winning, reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal.
The Russian plays Grigor Dimitrov in the semifinals. Medvedev will rise to a career-high of world No. 4 no matter Friday’s outcome.
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