Daniil Medvedev needs strong clay-court season after previous struggles on the red dirt

Tennis Features
Daniil Medvedev

Of all the players looking to usurp the Big Three, especially in Grand Slams, it is arguably Daniil Medvedev who has been the closest to winning a major.

The 25-year-old has twice been a runner-up at Grand Slams, including at this year’s Australian Open, and he has also proven to be one of the toughest opponents for the top players.

He has beaten the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, whilst he is also the first non ‘Big Four’ player to reach the top two in the ATP Rankings in 16 years.

The world No 2 has started 2021 brightly as he guided Russia to the ATP Cup title, finished runner-up at the Australian Open and collected a 10th career title in Marseille.

However, Medvedev will now be looking to transfer that form onto the clay – a part of the season that has generally been his weakest.

Clay isn’t necessarily a bad surface for him. He reached the final of the ATP500 event in Barcelona during his surge up the rankings in 2019, whilst he also reached the semi-final of the Masters 1000 event in Monte-Carlo that year.

That run in Monte-Carlo was particularly notable for his win over Djokovic in the quarter-finals, knocking out the Serbian – a strong clay-courter – in three sets to reach the last four.

However, aside from those results, clay has not been a good surface for him so far, and this can’t be highlighted more strongly than looking at his results at the French Open.

Medvedev has played at Roland Garros four times and has lost in the first round on every occasion, including from two sets up to Pierre-Hugues Herbert in 2019 and in four sets to Marton Fucsovics last year.

There is no particular reason why Medvedev should struggle so much on clay, and in particular at the French Open.

Despite his height, the Russian has proven himself to be a strong mover on all surfaces and his game style should be well-suited to the red dirt.

His lethal ability to defend in the most extreme of rallies and then turn the point around onto his racket should be to his advantage on a surface that should generally play fairly slowly, yet that evidently is not the case.

It could well be a mental block, but whatever it is it is something that he will surely be looking to fix.

Of course, with Rafael Nadal in action it is unlikely that he or anyone will win the French Open this year. Djokovic and Dominic Thiem are perhaps the only two men who can test the Spaniard over best of five sets.

However, if Medvedev wants to remain in the top two and perhaps push for that world No 1 ranking and become a dominant figure on Tour, he will need to improve his results on what is a fairly significant part of the season.

There is little doubt that he is capable of good results on the surface, but he needs to achieve these more consistently to become a true rival to the likes of Djokovic and Nadal across the season.

Medvedev will start his clay season at the Monte-Carlo Masters this coming week, and should be well-rested after a quarter-final loss in Miami.

When he plays, all eyes will be on him to see just how far he can progress on the red dirt this year.

Follow Oli Jefford on Twitter @odicksonjefford.

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