‘Unstoppable’ Medvedev seems destined for even greater heights – and that means taking down Djokovic, Nadal & Federer
The 23-year-old Russian had just swept past Germany’s Alexander Zverev in straight sets, 6-4 6-1, picking up his third title in six consecutive appearances in tournament finals.
“Everybody is talking that they need new guys, something new, so I gave them something new,” the 6ft 6in Medvedev said.
“It’s something outrageous that I’ve done in the last few months. I have been working for it. I just take it and I hope I’m going to do much more.”
Medvedev’s run of form this year has indeed been “outrageous”: nine appearances in finals, four titles, a world-leading 46 hard-court wins, and 29 victories in 32 matches since July.
In reaching the last stage in Shanghai, Medvedev became just the seventh player since the turn of the century to rack up six or more consecutive appearances in finals; to put that into perspective, the other men in that bracket are Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and former stars Marat Safin and David Ferrer. That is elite company for the youngster to be keeping.
As Medvedev himself said, he is a fresh face for tennis fans, one who can challenge the stranglehold that Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have held at the top of the game for so long.
Medvedev’s meteoric rise has seen him propelled into the world’s top four, while has now moved ahead of Federer into third in ‘The Race to London’ – which counts current season form ahead of the year-ending ATP Finals.
Given his current form, the question now is just how much higher the lofty Russian can go with his ascent.
He is next slated for action at a Kremlin Cup homecoming in Moscow, before traveling to the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. Then there is the more mouthwatering prospect of the ATP Masters 1000 event in Paris at the end of the month – a tournament which will also include Djokovic, Federer and Nadal.
Victory there, or doing something significant at the season-ending ATP Finals in London in November, would lay down a further marker ahead of January’s Australian Open, a tournament where Medvedev fell to Djokovic in four sets in the fourth round last time out.
Medvedev is already breathing down the necks of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer, but to reach the top of the pile he will clearly need to improve his record against them: Medvedev is a respectable 3-2 down in meetings with Djokovic, but is 0-3 in matches against Federer and winless in two encounters with Nadal.
The last of those matches with the Spaniard was the epic five-set US Open final in September, which was Medvedev’s maiden appearance in a Grand Slam decider.
That showed just how close Medvedev is to glory at a Major, but also just how tightly the Big Three will hold on to their top billing.
Nadal, Djokovic and Federer have shared the last 12 Grand Slam titles between them, and going further back, the trio have claimed 55 of the last 66 Grand Slams, dating back to 2003.Also on rt.com Forget picking sides in the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic debate, just sit back and revel in the brilliance
Others from the ‘Next Gen’ have previously hinted at breaking the ruling trio, including Medvedev’s opponent on Sunday in Shanghai, the 22-year-old Zverev.
The German won the season-ending ATP Finals in London last year, later breaking into the world’s top three, but has fallen away since the middle of the year and did not go beyond the quarterfinal of any of this year’s Grand Slams.
Medvedev’s own surge has not been without bumps – note his row with the crowd at the US Open – but he has now moved firmly ahead of Zverev and other youngsters such as Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece to emerge as the number one threat to the established order.
Medvedev is increasingly finding a will and a way to win, whatever the circumstances. Earlier this season, Tsitsipas summed up just how difficult it is to play against him, describing him as having “a very weird game… sloppy, but a good sloppy.
“He has this completely different way of playing, flat and low, without giving you much angle to work with," the Greek said.
"It can be very disturbing to play against him. He can make you miss without understanding why you missed.”
Medvedev himself has said that he doesn’t “have one shot that is amazing. I serve not bad, but I don’t serve more than 130 (mph). It’s just the consistency of everything. My tactic is to make my opponent suffer.”
And suffer they have.
Moving into the top three of the ATP rankings will be a tough nut to crack, and pulling off a maiden Grand Slam title next year an even tougher one.
But Medvedev’s continued brilliance indicates that he is the man leading the charge from the young brigade – and it will be increasingly hard for Nadal, Djokovic and Federer to keep him at bay.