Hold on here: Daniil Medvedev has started his 2019 season quite well. You always say, Matt, NOT to overreact to single matches. Why put Medvedev on the Indian Wells Pressure Series list? Other players need to be there, too.
Yes, I am prepared to address these claims.
True, Medvedev has done well at the start of the season, which might seem to offer reason for excluding him from the Tennis With An Accent Indian Wells pressure cooker.
True, I do insist on not overreacting to single-match results.
Why is Medvedev on our IW list of players who are about to confront crunch time?
The answer is not something you are likely expecting: Medvedev endured a good loss on Tuesday to Ricardas Berankis in Dubai.
Yep. Oui. This is one of those “good losses” I talk about from time to time. Tuesday’s miserable performance against Berankis is a blessing for Medvedev.
Recall 2017 in Dubai, when one of Medvedev’s fellow Russian ATP pros, Evgeny Donskoy, stunned Roger Federer in a very improbable way. Federer led 5-2 in the third set; 5-1 in the third-set tiebreaker after losing his 5-2 lead; and had three match points along the way, yet found a way to lose to Donskoy, who was ranked No. 116 in the world at the time.
The loss was one of the strangest and most perplexing defeats in Federer’s career.
It was the best thing that could have happened to Federer, who was fresh as a daisy for Indian Wells and Miami. He won both tournaments, a big part of his majestic 2017 conquest.
No, Daniil Medvedev won’t win Indian Wells or Miami (or at least, no sane person would predict as much). However, this loss to Berankis in an ATP 500 of modest consequence enables Medvedev — having played a lot of tennis the past month — to rest up for the biggest tournaments he will play before Wimbledon.
Everyone on tour knows Medvedev is not built to win on clay, at least not right now, so the IW-Miami double becomes a huge sequence in his 2019 season, a chance to stack a lot of points and possibly crack the top 10. Medvedev is not defending many points in the first half of the season, and the IW-Miami swing represents his best chance to move up in the rankings.
Success will solidify his confidence and show that his February run of feasting against players outside the top 10 was the real meal deal. A bad IW-Miami run could bring his season to a halt and undo the progress of recent weeks.
The key point to reemphasize is that by losing early in Dubai, Medvedev has set himself up to do WELL in Indian Wells and/or Miami. Had he played a full week in Dubai, I wouldn’t have put him on the Indian Wells Pressure Series list… because I wouldn’t have expected much from a tired player.
Again: I bet this is not what you were expecting me to write.
Now it has been written.
Let’s see how Daniil Medvedev writes the next chapter of his career in the United States during tennis’s version of March Madness.