AO 23 Australian Open

Daniil Medvedev: stuck

There will be plenty to say in 2023 — and maybe beyond — about Sebastian Korda, the young American whose future seems very bright after his win over Daniil Medvedev at the Australian Open. Korda looks like a player on the rise. Given his family’s sports track record, both in terms of investments made and successes achieved, it’s hard to bet against the notion that Korda is going to stick and remain a formidable presence in tennis for several years. Yet, in terms of this Australian Open, we need to see how Korda responds in his next match before jumping to the conclusion that this tournament is ready to be taken. That might still be a premature assessment.

What’s not premature is the assessment that Daniil Medvedev is stuck. His career has now officially stalled.

Plenty of people felt his career had stalled in 2022 after losing to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final after leading by two sets and having the knife to Rafa’s throat in the third set. That view was and is reasonable. I was personally waiting to see how this return to Melbourne would turn out for Daniil. When I saw the draw — with a vulnerable Rafael Nadal in his quarter — it certainly seemed that Medvedev had a fantastic chance to make the final and get an opportunity to stare down Novak Djokovic, his opponent in the 2021 Australian Open final.

My central thought about Medvedev entering this tournament was as follows: If he’s still Daniil Medvedev — if he’s still the man who won all those hardcourt tournaments in the summer of 2019 and established himself as the best non-Djokovic hardcourt player on a hardcourt-dominated tour — he will make the final.

Welp.

He’s not still that guy. That guy doesn’t exist anymore.

The fearlessness, the creativity, the swagger, the hunger, the stamina, all the qualities and traits which marked Club Med’s rise over three years ago, are greatly diminished. Yes, Korda played a superb match and carried himself brilliantly, responding to bad moments with the composure tennis observers needed to see from him. Korda gets very high marks, and we know that.

Medvedev didn’t have answers.

By failing to find solutions, failing to shift momentum the way Felix Auger-Aliasssime and Jannik Sinner did after falling behind by two sets at this tournament, Medvedev lost his elite hardcourt status. He lost the benefit of the doubt on this surface. He lost a measure of his standing in the sport.

Yes, Medvedev is not a “here today, gone tomorrow” player who swoops into the picture for just a couple months and then recedes as quickly as he appears. That’s much more like Beatriz Haddad Maia or Anett Kontaveit. Credit Medvedev for being a top-tier presence on the tour for more than three whole years. That’s a lot more than most, and he did get a major title out of it. More than that, it was a historically resonant title because it deprived Novak Djokovic of the first men’s Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969. Medvedev has gotten a lot out of his career, and that should be appreciated.

That career isn’t over, but this loss invites a conversation about the downslope, and whether Club Med has it in him to make a second climb after being knocked down the mountain.

In 2021 and 2022, Medvedev entered hardcourt majors as a man no one (other than Djokovic or Nadal) wanted to play. At this 2023 tournament, that aura didn’t exist.

Sebastian Korda might have shattered it … but he also might have given Daniil Medvedev the wakeup call he needs to pick himself off the canvas, dust off his tennis shorts, and find fresh motivation and purpose. Maybe this loss will paradoxically propel Club Med and jolt him awake with a new sense of urgency.

The pilot light is out. Maybe this loss will re-light Daniil Medvedev … but right now, it’s a dark time for Club Med.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: