From bad boy to fan favorite: Recapping Daniil Medvedev's remarkable US Open journey
Daniil Medvedev completed a remarkable journey from unloved bad boy to darling of the Arthur Ashe stadium as he discovered his form – and his softer side – at the 2019 US Open.
Medvedev surged into the final after winning 20 of his last 22 matches across four tournaments, a run of form that even Medvedev himself has struggled to keep up with.
"This summer's been so fast and long at the same time. Long because I've played so many matches," said Medvedev before Sunday's final at Flushing Meadows. "At the same time so fast because ... I didn't have any moment to just sit down and look back and say, 'Okay, I've done amazing things.'"Also on rt.com US Open 2019: Rafael Nadal edges 5-set thriller against Daniil Medvedev to capture Grand Slam glory
That run of form proved he belonged at tennis' top table as he defeated Novak Djokovic, then David Goffin, to win the Cincinnati Masters as he surged into the US Open on a tidal wave of form and confidence.
But when it came to his ability to go all the way in one of the Grand Slams, the doubts were still there in the eyes of the pundits after a first-round exit at Roland Garros and a third-round defeat at Wimbledon.
"This year I lost two really tough five-setters, at Roland-Garros, leading 2-0, having a break in the fifth," Medvedev said.
"Wimbledon, having break in the fifth. I lost them, but it's a great experience to know how it is to not let this happen again."
That experience of Grand Slam heartbreak has stood Medvedev in good stead during his run to the final. He has overcome potential stumbling blocks and visibly matured as the tournament has progressed.Also on rt.com ‘I love USA!’ Daniil Medvedev seals peace with New York crowd as he books spot in US Open final
Indeed, for the man who was described by his coach Gilles Cervara this weekend as "a genius," this past week in New York has felt like a coming-out party for Medvedev, who has tried to shed his bad-boy image and become a fan favorite as his progression through the tournament mirrored his progression in the eyes of the fans in the stands.
His behavior earlier in the tournament saw him fined $19,000 for showing his middle finger to the fans and angrily snatching a towel from a ballboy as his at-times self-destructive on-court personality threatened to get the better of him.
His continued playing the bad guy in his third-round win over Feliciano Lopez, winding up the crowd that had jeered him earlier in the match, telling them "I won because of you!"
But after he defeated Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals, Medvedev appeared to turn over a new leaf, addressing the crowd and telling them: "I have to say sorry, guys. And thank you."
It turned the jeers into cheers and applause and proved to the 23-year-old that jettisoning his negative energy during games might bring the crowd on side and help power him to victory.
The ovation that greeted his break back to level things up in the third set of Sunday night's epic final proved that he had made the switch from "heel" to "babyface", as the crowd willed him to get back into the match and push Nadal to extra sets.
And, by the time he finally secured that third set, it felt like the New York crowd were firmly in the Russian's corner, despite the hugely popular figure facing him across the net.
Powered by self-belief and the support of the crowd, Medvedev then went on to win the fourth set and take the match into a decider.
Ultimately, he fell just short as Nadal battled through for the win. But, despite finishing the tournament as the runner-up, Medvedev won something else in New York over the course of the last few days.
Medvedev won over the fans, and proved to himself that he truly belongs among the game's elite. And now he realizes that fact, the future looks bright for the new world No.4, and Russia's top male tennis star.
Medvedev: If I would win, what would they show? 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/NjhuleQoBo— Cetin Cem Yilmaz (@cetincem) September 9, 2019
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