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Wimbledon 2023: Daniil Medvedev finds his rhythm on grass | Tennis News

As consistent as five-time titlist Carlos Alcaraz has been on the tour this year so far, there’s one man ahead of him by one match in the ATP list of most wins: Daniil Medvedev, his opponent on Friday.

Russia's Daniil Medvedev celebrates after beating Christopher Eubanks.(AP)
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev celebrates after beating Christopher Eubanks.(AP)

For the self-proclaimed hard-court specialist, that’s an impressive takeaway from the first six months of the tour spread — albeit not equally — across hard, clay and grass courts. The 6’6’’ Russian still stands the tallest on the hard stuff, but he sure is growing his presence on the more natural surfaces of the sport.

Medvedev’s Wimbledon semi-final spot, overcoming a tricky Christopher Eubanks barrier and a mid-match blip in a five-set quarter-final win, is a significant assertion of that.

The 2021 US Open champion had never made it past the fourth round in his four appearances at the All England Club. Barred from competing last year, the Russian came into this Wimbledon with early exits in the two lead-up grass-court events. The expectations and eyeballs on him — Medvedev is yet to play on Centre Court this year — were, understandably, low. The world No.3 “wasn’t feeling so well with my tennis”, carrying that into his opening round where he was troubled a bit by British wild card Arthur Fery.

The lanky Russian’s season so far, however, has been defined by finding a way to feel more at home outside of his comfort zone. After clinching the Miami Masters hard-court title in April, Medvedev soon got down to switching and adapting on clay, a surface he had previously publicly stated his hatred for. The Rome Masters handed him his first title on the dirt and a shot in the arm in his belief of becoming a better multi-court player, which even a first-round exit at French Open to Brazilian Thiago Seyboth Wild could not dampen.

“On clay, I found something, especially in the movement. Rome was amazing, but even Roland Garros and other losses, I played good; just that my opponents were better,” he said after his quarter-final win on Wednesday. “I didn’t have this feeling where, ‘Oh my god, clay, I cannot win a match’.”

Ditto on grass. Except, unlike at the French Open where he’d at least made a quarter-final in 2021, Wimbledon had been, result-wise, his worst Slam where he simply could not “get into a flow”. That changed after the opening round.

“I managed to find this rhythm which I rarely had on grass, which is because the bounce is…it goes through the court, so you’re going to be late on the (racquet) swing,” he said.

Medvedev plays on grass much like he does anywhere else — largely positioning himself as far behind the baseline as possible. The low bounce deprives him of the time and swing he can generate behind his flat groundstrokes. Yet he carries one weapon which can prove lethal on grass. Medvedev’s serve won’t blow opponents away, but is solid enough to trouble them consistently. His 57 aces are the sixth most in this tournament, and the highest among the remaining men.

“On grass, I feel like you have to adapt less, in a way. You just have to serve well and try to return (well) and make one break a set,” he said.

Losing the second and third sets against Eubanks, Medvedev’s revival was led by the serve; he lost just one point on his first serve in the fourth set. And in tweaking his tactics and positioning himself a lot closer to the baseline. “Straightaway, I felt that it was putting more pressure on him, so I continued doing it,” he said.

Medvedev will have to continue being sharp, both in his problem-solving and his game on grass, come Friday.

Like Medvedev, the world No.1 has been in rich form this season. Like Medvedev, the 20-year-old hadn’t won a whole of matches on grass before this season. The only time the two have played on the surface before was in the third round of the 2021 Wimbledon, where the more experienced Russian won in straight sets. But this Alcaraz is a lot different to that, on grass and beyond. The raw power has developed into a more ruthless, refined version. Medvedev knows that.

“When he was 17, which was actually not long ago, he was missing (shots),” Medvedev said. “Everyone saw that he is amazing, but everyone was wondering if he is going to find a way to miss less (while) producing the same power. And he did. Quite fast.”

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