Implications of Daniil Medvedev’s Rise

The new World #3 has reached six-consecutive tournament finals.  4 of which were either Masters 1000 events or Grand Slam events.  Medvedev has won 3 of those 6 finals.  He staged a wonderful US Open final vs. Rafael Nadal in which he had Rafa wobbling in the early stages of the 5th set but failed to break serve when Daniil could have grabbed a lead.

What we have in Medvedev’s current streak is something many tennis fans have been waiting for: namely a player from a different generation asking the question of his elders at nearly every tour stop he makes.  Granted all of his finals have come on either outdoor or indoor hard court events and Dominic Thiem has done something similar on clay the past few seasons.  Still, to show the desire or even temerity to be willing to unseat the comfortably seated big 3 is a big deal.

Medvedev has his own style of game.  He is not a carbon copy of any of the Big 3.  I see him as resembling aspects of Andy Murray’s, but Medvedev at best has a noticeable kinship with players such as Murray or Mecir from other eras.  Medvedev’s on-court personality is also not terribly similar to anyone in the big three.  Contrasts in style of play and on-court personality were not necessary for challenging the 12 to 15-year-old pecking order, but it is a nice bonus.  As fans, we get to learn a new player as we see challenges being issued and met.

Others such as Thiem, Tsitsipas, and Zverev may take heart from Medvedev’s rise just as Michael Chang’s 1988 French Open triumph opened the eyes of Pete Sampras and Jim Courier that major titles may be closer than expected (Chang’s breakthrough along with Sampras and Courier’s actually seemed to heap pressure onto Andre Agassi).  I recall Lleyton Hewitt reaching many tournament finals in 1999 and 2000.  Winning frequently has a way of reordering the tour because no matter whose Q-rating is highest, tennis is not professional wrestling, the players who win the most rise up the rankings and get better seeds.  The groundwork Medvedev has laid should make continued deep tournament runs easier than they have been over these 6 events.  Other players his age may take note and think, “If I grit through this cold and win today to make this week’s semis, I can start getting easier paths to semifinals in the future.”

Tennis is in uncharted territory in terms of increased longevity.  However, generational change may be as simple as someone showing the path to others who think, “I grew up with that guy.  I am just as good as that guy.  I can’t stand him being ahead of me.  How do I catch him and get what he has?”

 

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