July 31, 2021

At Roland Garros, Medvedev and Tsitsipas move their rivalry on clay

“I hope the French public will be on my side. It will help me a lot. I hope that the people who are going to come will say to themselves: “OK, he speaks French, he is nice… come on, we are for him.” ” Daniil Medvedev is not lucky when it comes to audience. Fledged without warning at the 2019 US Open, the young Russian had become the number one public enemy of New York fans, following a few provocative gestures. Rather than let himself be thrown off, he had fed on adversity, making it to the final. Before explaining not to have looked for the confrontation, but to have just adapted to the circumstances to avoid being disconcerted.

“It’s good to have an audience for your cause”, insisted the nO 2nd in the world at the start of Roland-Garros, after the first victory of his career on Parisian clay. Perfectly French-speaking, Medvedev relied on the public’s help for his quarter-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas on Tuesday, June 8. Alas, by scheduling the meeting in night session, the organizers deprived him of the expected support.

Read our article from 2019: Daniil Medvedev, “Mister Nobody” quickly became public enemy number one

Unlike the Blues of football for their last preparation match, against Bulgaria, Roland-Garros did not obtain a derogation to anticipate the shift of the curfew to 11 p.m. by one day. And it is in the empty cocoon of the Philippe-Chatrier court that the two figures of the “Next Gen” – this generation which has been expected for years to supplant the trio Nadal, Djokovic and Federer – will cross swords.

In view of his season on clay – winner in Monte-Carlo and Lyon, finalist in Barcelona – and his solid start to the tournament, the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas is the favorite on the ocher at Roland Garros. But Patrick Mouratoglou’s protégé finds his pet peeve on his way, Tuesday. In seven clashes on the circuit, the Greek has been beaten six times by Medvedev, the last time in the semi-finals of the last Australian Open, in February.

Medvedev, machine to thwart

For the nO A 22-year-old world 5, the Russian player’s game is most of the time an unsolvable puzzle. While not celebrated for his slick, or even academic, game, Daniil Medvedev poses huge problems for his opponents. A machine to thwart, effective as hell. A “Boring game”, had balanced Tsitsipas, after a new defeat against his rival in 2019, stoking the war of words between the two men, ignited at the beginning of 2018.

If the Greek has since reconsidered his words, assuring during the Australian Open that Medvedev “Just play very smart and surpass yourself”, the two are not sharing their free time. “Our chemistry is certainly not the best you can find on the circuit., recognized Tsitsipas at the end of 2020. But you can’t get along with everyone. I don’t hate him, but I suppose indeed that we won’t go to dinner together… ”

Stefanos Tsitsipas faces, Tuesday, June 8, his white whale in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros, the Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Insofar as, curfew requires, in Paris, restaurants close their doors at 9 p.m. Tuesday again, the question of the meal is not on the table. But the burgeoning romance between Medvedev and clay is cause for concern for Stefanos Tsitsipas. Eliminated in the first round of Roland-Garros the past four years, the 25-year-old Russian proclaimed to anyone who wanted to hear his disenchantment with this demanding surface, where he could not put his atypical game. “It’s the worst surface in the world for me. But if you like to be in the dust, like a dog, I don’t judge ”, had he annoyed himself at the beginning of May, during a change of side for his entry into the (failed) tournament in Rome.

But from his first practice at Porte d’Auteuil, Medvedev felt a change. New balls, more suited to his game, and a finally tamed surface, and here is the Russian in the quarter-finals. “I learned that I can move well on clay, observed the player. Under these conditions, I manage to get out of the blows that do not allow the opponent to counter-attack me. “

No members of the “Big 3” before the final

The opposition with Stefanos Tsitsipas’s attacking play should be worth a look. If he places the Greek of Russian origin (his mother is a former Soviet tennis champion) among “The top 4 on earth this season”, alongside Nadal, Djokovic and Zverev, Medvedev is far from surrendering. “Here, as I said before each game, to beat me, my opponent will have to play well. “

Often unable to find the key to the atypical game of the Russian, Tsitsipas does not intend to change his game plan against the one who blocked his way to the final of the Australian Open. “With the level that I have had so far, I have the impression that I don’t have to think more about who I face or not, I just have to play my game and the rest will come by itself”, estimate the nO 1 in the “Race” this year (ranking which accumulates points over a calendar year).

Read also Roland-Garros: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the same part of the table

Placed, for once, in a part of the table cleared of the indestructible Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, Tsitsipas and Medvedev – just like the German Alexander Zverev – measure their chances of reaching the final without having to run into one of the members of the “Big 3”. “The later we meet them, the better for us, admitted the Russian on Sunday. Rafa has already won 13 times here, he hardly loses any set, so knowing that we can reach the final before facing him is our best chance. ” But before projecting, they will have to pass the pitfall of quarters.