The last 20 years of professional tennis has been dominated by the “Big Three” of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic with 60 grand slams between them, it’s obviously pretty incredible. But eventually age has, or will, catch up with all of them, and the next generation will come through. One of the first players to truly break the Big Three mold has been Daniil Medvedev, a young Russian who does things his own way.
Medvedev shocked the world when he not only beat, but crushed, Novak Djokovic in the 2021 U.S. Open Final. It was the Russian’s third major final, and his first win. What really separates Medvedev from many of his young peers is his ability to perform both at the major level and at ATP tour events. He has also won four DANIIL MEDVEDEVMasters 1000 titles in his career and the ATP Year End Championships in 2020. There have been some players that have showed up for two weeks, but gone quiet for the rest of the year. Not Medvedev, and we will be seeing him on TV and on stadium courts for many years to come.
What makes Medvedev’s game so fascinating is his style of play. Essentially every single one of his strokes would be considered unorthodox. If you went to the tennis “handbook” author, he/she would probably not be happy with Medvedev’s game. Just take a look at some still photos of his forehand; it looks awkward, border-line uncomfortable. But the result? An extremely hard to judge ball that he can vary with spin, pace and angle.
The backhand, arguably his best shot, is extremely flat, and surely some of his early age coaches would have told him that he needed more margin for error and spin on that shot. And perhaps most importantly, Daniil Medvedev is unabashedly himself on the tennis court. Many will remember his infamous run at the 2019 U.S. Open, where he took on the role as a villain to the New York crowd. If you don’t, here’s what he said after his quarterfinal win.
“Thank you all, guys, because your energy tonight gave me the win, because if you were not here, guys, I probably would lose the match,” Medvedev said. “Because I was so tired, I was cramping yesterday. It was so tough on me. So I want all of you to know when you sleep tonight, I won because of you.”