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Nick Kyrgios said Daniil Medvedev might be the best player in the world right now. Last year's Australian Open runner-up showed why on a rowdy stage
The No. 2 seed battled the crowd and a uniquely talented opponent over four sets, and survived to reach the third round—but not before giving his candid thoughts on the atmosphere.
Published Jan 20, 2022
WATCH: Daniil Medvedev goes off on the crowd for a perceived lack of respect toward himself, and interviewer Jim Courier
This year’s edition of the Nick Kyrgios Show at Melbourne Park reached its peak in the first game of the fourth set. Kyrgios trailed Daniil Medvedev two sets to one, but momentum and the crowd were with him. A few minutes earlier he had broken Medvedev with a no-look reflex volley and a blistering forehand winner. Kyrgios celebrated Ronaldo-style, and Rod Laver Arena responded accordingly. The fans chanted, cheered, booed—and even siuu-ed: Suddenly it sounded like a football arena on game day.
Kyrgios rode that wave to break point. He kept riding it through the next rally, as he and Medvedev chased each from corner to corner and from baseline to net. Finally, Kyrgios had a good look at a forehand that he could crush. He jumped, he nearly came out his shoes when he swung…and he shanked the ball 10 feet wide. The wave had crested.
Medvedev would close that game with a drop shot winner and a backhand winner, and win six of the next eight games for a 7-6 (1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory.
Before this match, Kyrgios said Medvedev might be the best player in the world. That might be a slight exaggeration, but he made the Russian show us all of his many skills, and show why he’s the favorite to win this title.
We know Medvedev is steady, and he proved it again in the way he approached the rallies. He moved Kyrgios with each shot—forehand cross, backhand cross, drop shot—but did it safely, rarely aiming for the corners or trying to win a point on one swing, and finished with 68 winners against just 29 errors. Early in the match, Kyrgios threw in a front-facing tweener. How did the Russian react? By coldly dismissing it with a forehand winner. An all-business tone had been set.
Medvedev also gave us a glimpse of how effective and important his serve is. He hit a career-high 31 aces, 14 more than Kyrgios; many times, just when Kyrgios seemed ready to make the stadium explode, Medvedev snuffed out the energy with a big first delivery.
In the past, Medvedev has struggled to transition forward, but he had no trouble in this match; he finished the night 20 of 36 at net. Australian commentator John Fitzgerald said that the most underrated thing about Medvedev’s game is how complete it is, and he’s right.
“The crowd tried to help him,” Medvedev said, “…[I] just went out and was like, ‘OK, I have to serve even better. Try to return even better.’ Yeah, I managed to do it.”
“Feeling a bit tired, but was, I think was playing great, both of us.”
Kyrgios echoed the sentiment.
“I threw everything I could at him,” he said. “I thought I served consistently 220s, 220 kilometers an hour for three-and-a-half hours almost, and played pretty well from the back, created plenty of opportunities on return games.”
“Every game he doesn't drop his level, he shows up every game,” Kyrgios said of Medvedev. “I think no matter what the score is or how much pressure he’s under he never kind of gets flustered. He just has so much belief in his game.”
Kyrgios said “it was a lot rowdier than it usually is on Rod Laver,” but that’s what you can expect when you have “the most entertaining player”—himself, in case you’re wondering—“playing in his home Slam.”
Not surprisingly, Kyrgios approved.
“I can understand it’s a gentleman’s game,” he said, “but it’s about time that people embraced some sort of different energy in this sport otherwise it will die out. It’s just that simple.”
Medvedev also said he enjoyed the atmosphere, though perhaps more in retrospect than when he was on court.
“It’s not easy to play against the crowd,” he said. “I feel like these matches, you know, they are not easy to play, but they stay as fun matches afterwards, because in the end, yeah, we gave the crowd a big show.”
Medvedev didn’t love everything about the audience’s activities, though.
“The only thing, between first and second serve, that’s where, you know, [the noise is] tough,” he said. “It’s not good for the game I think to do it…I think, yeah, people should respect both players and just, you know, don’t talk in these moments.”
How do you have a football atmosphere and still maintain the gentlemanly standards of a tennis match? We probably won’t get an answer in Melbourne, or for the rest of 2022, now that Kyrgios is out of his home Slam. The more immediate question is: How will this effort affect Medvedev? The last two players to survive the Kyrgios experience in Australia—Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem—lost in the next round; Thiem in particular had nothing left. Medvedev plays Botic van de Zandschulp on Saturday. He won their only meeting, in four sets, at last year’s US Open. I’m guessing he’ll be ready for this one as well.
Kyrgios put Medvedev to the test, and Medvedev showed he had the game and the grit and the character to pass.