Last summer, Daniil Medvedev was the hottest player on the ATP tour, putting together a remarkable run in contesting six successive finals, including his Grand Slam championship debut at the US Open. The stretch of form, highlighted by ATP Masters 1000 triumphs in Cincinnati and Shanghai, propelled the Russian to reach a career-high No. 4 and qualify for the season-ending ATP Finals.
Like many of his past and present colleagues, Medvedev had plenty of roadblocks and doubts in his journey to becoming a Top 5 player. In the latest upload to Noah Rubin’s Behind the Racquet, the 24-year-old opened up about a strong parental disagreement, in which his mother wanted her son to continue education alongside his tennis pursuits. Medvedev did just that until he was 18, but soon found the jump from junior ranks to the pros was a monumental mountain to scale, especially financially.
“The toughest period for me was the switch from juniors to pros. I ended at 13 in the world in junior tennis. I started to quickly understand, after playing futures, just how difficult it would be to get from 700 to 300 in the world,” he wrote. “You needed to save as much money as possible while trying to win five or six futures as quickly as possible… There were matches where I lost and all I was thinking about was the extra 100 dollars I could’ve made.”
He shares a story that’s since become an inside joke with fellow Top 60 player Alexander Bublik. In the anecdote, the then-No. 700 Medvedev asked the Russian-born Kazakh how he managed to break the Top 300, feeling like that number was “impossible” to reach. Though both would soon climb much greater heights, Medvedev admits to not carrying himself to the highest degree as a professional. Having wasted hours of energy on his PlayStation, Medvedev, ranked 70, had a personal moment of clarity where he wanted to uncover his boundaries. It was then, where the eccentric player finally went all on in with the work required, and steadily emerged as a consistent contender.
“I remember before that major jump where I would play one long match and I would lose the next day just because I couldn’t move. If you talk to anyone from juniors, they would say I was one of the players in the worst shape, sometimes cramping after only thirty minutes,” Medvedev said. “It has been the consistency of physical training and recovery every day that has changed my game. Me, by myself, I am not always sure what to do but my team helps me with my routine. I don’t have any better answer on how I went from cramping in juniors to back to back titles as a professional.”
Medvedev, who doesn't claim to have an idol, wishes to simply be himself. It was in New York where his sovereign spirit first put the No. 5 seed in hot water, when his on-court antics elicited recurring boos. By tournament’s end, his charm, fighting spirit and ultimately that same unique personality completely won over a full Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“This was the biggest push for me. The idea that I always wanted to be independent of others,” Medvedev reflects. “In this world you ‘hear’ what everyone says about you and is thinking. If you get ten people in front of you there will be ten different opinions. There will always be someone who says, ‘It has to be this way’, but it really doesn’t.”
He notes keeping a low profile when not in the competition ring. One hopes Medvedev checks in from time to time during a period of ambiguity that will only be brightened by the colorful character simply continuing to be himself.