Daniil Medvedev will begin his St. Petersburg Open title defense with a matchup against Richard Gasquet and his brilliant one-handed backhand. Both players are happy to be indoors, as neither player won a match during the abbreviated 2020 clay-court season.
The only time they played, at the 2018 Open Sud de France in Montpellier, Gasquet demolished Medvedev 6-0, 6-3. While it’s safe to expect a different result on Wednesday, the Frenchman matches up with the world No. 6 better than you might think.
It’s nearly impossible to hit through the Russian on a quick indoor hard court, but Gasquet’s unique ability to spin the ball off the sides of the court served him well in their last meeting.
Medvedev owns one of the world’s best two-handed backhands, but oftentimes he will simply poke it cross court without much on it. He gets away with it, but only because his defensive and scrambling ability is other-worldly. In the words of his peer Karen Khachanov, he is an “octopus.” But if there’s one backhand on tour you cannot hit to without a purpose, it’s Gasquet’s.
Not only can the Frenchman win backhand to backhand exchanges, he owns more than enough touch and feel to win cat-and-mouse points against Medvedev.
There’s probably not much merit behind this statistic, but historically Medvedev has struggled with players from France, particularly those with exceptional touch. He’s 10-19 against all Frenchman, 0-3 against Gilles Simon, and 1-4 against Lucas Pouille.
It makes some sense, as you aren’t going to beat Medvedev by bashing balls from the baseline. It seems a little touch goes a long way against the defending champion. According to the oddsmakers, a Gasquet upset would be monumental, as Medvedev is listed as a massive -775 favorite. The Russian will likely secure the victory on his home court, but Gasquet has more than enough tools to make Medvedev uncomfortable.
The Pick: Daniil Medvedev