‘Medvedev is a bad boy? Look at him, he’s a charmer!’ – Russian tennis great Marat Safin
In an interview with RT, two-time Grand Slam winner Safin recalled the most remarkable moments of the recent US Open final between Rafael Nadal and Medvedev, recalling his own Flushing Meadows final against tennis legend Pete Sampras.
Talking about Medvedev’s incredible run at the season-ending Grand Slam in the US, the 39-year-old Safin noted that the Russian could have inflicted defeat on the Spanish great, had it not been for a lack of practice and experience of playing at tournaments of the highest caliber.
“Medvedev could have defeated Nadal,” Safin told RT. “The Spaniard lost the rhythm of the game and was on the verge of being knocked down. He didn’t know what to do to stop Medvedev. Nadal was trying to win easy net points, he was raising his hands in an attempt to slow down the game. Finally his experience played the key role helping him to win. He won just because of his experience.”Also on rt.com From bad boy to fan favorite: Recapping Daniil Medvedev's remarkable US Open journey
He also stressed that the 23-year-old Russian talent didn’t capitalize on Nadal’s errors, allowing the Spaniard to recapture the initiative.
“Medvedev could have broken Nadal in the beginning of the fifth set, but squandered his chances. Like in football, if you don’t score, your opponent will do that. This is sport. He allowed Nadal to make a comeback and feel the match again.”
Safin, who is well-remembered for his on-court tantrums at the beginning of his career, didn’t agree with US tennis fans who dubbed Medvedev a “tennis bad boy” for his “confrontation” with the New York public during the Grand Slam tournament.
“Medvedev is a bad boy? Look at him, he is a charmer,” Safin said. “He is really a nice person. Bad boys look far different to him. He just doesn’t have the necessary experience of communicating with spectators. Everything is quite new and unfamiliar to him. He has just started showing great results. Only after his triumph in Cincinnati pundits started to talk about him and treat him as a great player.”
“He needs to learn how to work with the crowd. You can make spectators hate you, or you can troll them. This quite natural. People understand who you are. If you behave natural, if you play with your heart, you will be accepted by the crowd. If you just want to show off and create hype, fans will easily understand it. That’s why he was accepted by the crowd by the end of the tournament. He is just 23, he tries to find himself on and out of court,” the former tennis player said.Also on rt.com ‘I love USA!’ Daniil Medvedev seals peace with New York crowd as he books spot in US Open final
Safin said that spectators started rooting for Medvedev after seeing that he was not broken following a sloppy start.
“Having trailed by two sets he could have surrendered, but he preferred to fight. The crowd loves fighters. He showed great tennis against Nadal, fighting for every point.”
Safin also remembered his own triumphant performance in the final of the 2000 US Open final, where he was opposed by multiple Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras of the USA, revealing that his coach Alexander Volkov didn’t believe in his victory.
“Before the final my coach told me ‘don’t lose in three sets, try to win at least one,’” he said. “ I swore at him. He was a talented coach, but he was full of fears which he radiated on me. I felt that I had chances win, because three weeks before I managed to beat him in Montreal. I’m not going to lose, why are you trying to brainwash me? I came out on the court knowing that I could to win the title. I had to root out these negative thoughts left after the conversation with the coach.”
Talking about the new generation of Russian players, Safin said that they will have bright future in tennis expressing hopes they will eclipse his records.
“Medvedev, Khachanov, Rublev, they are a new generation of players who didn’t grow up in the Soviet Union. I call them ‘the I-Pad generation’ who have a different perception of life, a different mentality. I would be happy if they win Grand Slams beating my and Zhenya’s (Yevgeny Kafelnikov) records. I’m sure they will be better than us.”