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9 Aug, 2022 09:45

Medvedev comments on playing without Russian flag

Like his compatriots, the world number one must appear as a neutral at ATP tournaments
Medvedev comments on playing without Russian flag

World number one Daniil Medvedev has said that playing under a neutral flag does not dimmish his desire to win tournaments, as the Russian tennis star continues his preparations for the defense of his US Open title later this month.

Just like his compatriots, Medvedev is banned from playing under the Russian flag at ATP tour events because of the conflict in Ukraine.

That was also the case at the French Open earlier this year, and will be the same situation at the US Open in August and September.

Those Grand Slams have at least allowed Russian and Belarusian participation – unlike Wimbledon, which became an outlier by issuing a blanket ban on players from the two countries.

After winning his first ATP title of the year in Mexico at the weekend, Medvedev is gearing up to defend his Masters crown at the Canadian Open this week, and the 26-year-old was asked in Montreal if playing under a neutral flag affects him.

“For me what matters is playing tennis. I really enjoy my job. It’s about following the rules. The rule at one point was very clear that we have to play under a neutral flag,” Medvedev told reporters

“Me, I’m still Daniil Medvedev. I still want to win big titles, win big matches or small matches. It doesn’t change.”

Medvedev also said there was little he could do to change the decision by Wimbledon – a stance which saw the London showpiece stripped of its rankings points by the ATP and WTA as a punishment.

“You have to appreciate it because I definitely couldn’t change the decision of Wimbledon. I have to follow the rules,” Medvedev said. 

“If you focus on the negative part. For sure I wanted to play Wimbledon, I wanted to do well there. I always want to be in the biggest tournaments and try to play good.

“You can just stay in this circle of, ‘Oh, my God, I was not able to be there’.

“I’ve made a very good preparation block for the US Open Series, which normally you cannot do because you play Wimbledon.

“I was able to do it. Feeling 100% physically, mentally ready. Really happy with Los Cabos for sure with the title,” Medvedev added.

Medvedev is seeded first in Canada as he continues the North American swing on his favored hard court surface.

Two big rivals are absent as Novak Djokovic was not allowed into the country due to his vaccine status, while Rafael Nadal pulled out due to the lingering injury concerns which ultimately ended his Wimbledon campaign.

Medvedev said the absence of the likes of Nadal, Djokovic, and fellow ‘Big Three’ star Roger Federer – who is a long-term injury casualty – doesn’t change too much in terms of his aims.

“If the Big Three in the tournament, they’re the favorites straight away,” said the Russian.

“And it’s easy because they win a lot of tournaments, almost every tournament they play in. So there is no surprise when we make them favorites.

“At the same time for me, it doesn’t change much if they’re here or not because my goal is to win the tournament.

“So no matter who I play in the final, if it’s going to be a qualifier or a wild card, lucky loser or a second seed, I just want to win the match.

“Then of course, it’s sometimes different sensations when you beat somebody from the Big Three.”

Medvedev, who is enjoying a 12th week at the pinnacle of the ATP ratings, recently faced criticism from a State Duma Deputy in his homeland who accused him of showing a lack of patriotism by removing the Russian flags from his social media accounts – a requirement for his continued participation.

Roman Teryushkov claimed that “after [Medvedev] removed the Russian flag at the request of the West, he became of little interest to me and the population of our country.”

Teryushkov, who is a member of the State Duma Physical Culture and Sports Committee, later suggested that Medvedev – who has a residence in Monaco – should not even be described as Russian.

“I don’t really understand what ‘Russian tennis player’ D. Medvedev means, if (he) lives in France and probably has the citizenship of a country officially defined by Moscow as unfriendly, then it would probably be more correct to write ‘French tennis player of Russian origin’,” said Teryushkov.

The politician later doubled down on those comments, arguing that Medvedev aimed to “glorify his own name and earn money,” rather than benefit his country.

Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev came out in support of Medvedev, dismissing Teryushkov’s claims and noting that many Russian tennis players live and train abroad for purposes of convenience.    

“I have no doubt that all our athletes are patriots of their country,”Tarpischev said of Medvedev and his fellow Russian tennis stars.

Medvedev begins his Canadian Open campaign on Wednesday. Should he reach the final in Montreal, he will be guaranteed to remain as world number one until after the US Open.