Medvedev ‘likes pressure’ as post-Djokovic favorite starts Aus Open with ruthless win
Daniil Medvedev made light work of Swiss rival Henri Laaksonen as the Russian cruised into the second round with a straight-sets victory in Melbourne, before saying he welcomes the spotlight as a tournament favorite.
Now the top-ranked player at the event following the deportation of Novak Djokovic, Medvedev was largely untroubled in a routine 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7-3) win against world number 91 Laaksonen on Tuesday which lasted just shy of two hours.
Medvedev is eyeing history in Australia as he bids to become the first man in the Open era to follow a maiden Grand Slam crown by winning the title at his next appearance at a Major.
The 25-year-old captured a first Grand Slam when he overcame Djokovic in the US Open final in September, and is not shirking the pressure that comes with being the favorite now that the Serb is no longer part of the draw in Melbourne.
Highest-ranked player in the draw = no extra pressure 😎Seeking to become the first man in the Open Era to win his 2nd major title on his next Grand Slam appearance, US Open champ @DaniilMedwed cruises into the #AusOpen R2🎥: @AustralianOpenpic.twitter.com/eQg2VN951N— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) January 18, 2022
“I like pressure,” Medvedev said on court after his clinical display at Rod Laver Arena.
“It’s a really important tournament for me always in Australia. I like to play here, I like hard courts.
“So I always want to do better than I did last year, but it’s not going to be easy,” added the Russian, who was beaten by nine-time champion Djokovic in last season’s final in Melbourne.
Next up for Medvedev could be a much sterner test in the form of home favorite Nick Kyrgios, should the Australian overcome British qualifier Liam Broady in their first-round match on Tuesday.
Kyrgios has beaten Medvedev in both their meetings to date, although the Austrlian firebrand has had to contend with a Covid infection on the eve on this year’s tournament in Melbourne.
Even though Medvedev potentially stands to benefit from the absence of 20-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic, the Russian had been among those to question the unvaccinated Serb’s treatment.
“I want to say about Novak’s situation that we’re in Australia, it’s their rules. But from what I know, again, if he has a valid exemption to be in this country and to do what he wants, then he should play,” Medvedev had argued ahead of the tournament.
Djokovic was sent home on Sunday after Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke intervened personally in his case, arguing that the world number one’s continued presence could agitate anti-vaccine sentiments among locals.
Russians make progress
Elsewhere among Russian representatives Down Under on Tuesday, men’s fifth seed Andrey Rublev rolled into the second round with a straight-sets win over unfancied Italian Gianluca Mager.
Rublev, 24, is a four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist and will next face the unseeded Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania in round two.
Ruthless from Rublev 😲 @andreyrublev97 hammers 31 winners to just 13 errors in dispatching Gianluca Mager 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.#AusOpen • #AO2022🎥: @wwos · @espn · @Eurosport · @wowowtennispic.twitter.com/0EIzvK02yK— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 18, 2022
In the women’s draw, last season’s French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova moved into round two with a 6-2 6-1 win over Hungary’s Anna Bondar, and now faces Australian veteran and former US Open champion Samantha Stosur.
Russia’s Ludmilla Samsonova beat Emina Bektas of the US to set up a second-round clash with Czech 31st seed Marketa Vondrousova.
Samsonova and Pavlyuchenkova will be joined in the second round by countrywoman Daria Kasatkina, after the 24-year-old beat Switzerland’s Stefanie Vogele in their first-round match.
Next up for 25th seed Kasatkina is Poland’s Magda Linette.