Tennis: Djokovic not the player he was, says hopeful Medvedev
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Daniil Medvedev enjoyed a rush of confidence on Saturday after securing his first appearance in the last 16 of a Grand Slam and the Russian tyro hopes to ride it to an unlikely victory over top seed Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open.
Tennis – Australian Open – Third Round – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, January 19, 2019. Serbia’s Novak Djokovic gestures after winning the match against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov. REUTERS/Edgar Su
The 22-year-old Muscovite crushed former world number seven David Goffin 6-2 7-6(3) 6-3 of Belgium at Melbourne Arena and now heads into the biggest match of his career feeling he is playing with house money.
Like many of his generation, Medvedev grew up watching Djokovic battling ‘Big Four’ rivals for Grand Slam trophies and has huge respect for the Serb’s record and reputation.
Yet he also believes the 31-year-old is not quite the player he was, even as the world number one bids for a third major title in succession.
“…what I can only say is that probably he is not playing as he was before,” 15th seed Medvedev told reporters.
“Or that’s just (my) feeling. Because before, when he was young, I was just watching on TV but it was just something insane when he was playing Andy (Murray) or somebody for five hours and you couldn’t see one down (level), it was only up.
“It’s not the same right now, you always have chances to beat him.
“That’s why he lost three times to ‘Next Gen’ players last year and I’m going to try to find my chances.”
Medvedev may study Alexander Zverev’s upset win over the Serb at the season-ending World Tour Finals, or seek inspiration from compatriot Karen Khachanov who downed Djokovic at the Paris Masters in a major upset.
Twenty-year-old Greek trailblazer Stefanos Tsitsipas also dumped Djokovic out of the Montreal Masters.
Medvedev has played him twice, losing in straight sets at Eastbourne in 2017 but took a set off the 14-times Grand Slam champion before retiring during a Davis Cup tie the same year.
“I don’t know if he was in a worse moment (at the time),” Medvedev said.
“I managed to give him some fight, even if I lost two times. I’ve improved a lot since then.
“I think what is good about Novak is he gives you time.
“It’s not like Roger (Federer) who takes the ball early, or like (Milos) Raonic when you know you’re going to run like crazy for all the match.
“Of course, he’s a great player but at least you can build your game, this gives you some chances.”
Tennis – Australian Open – Third Round – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, January 19, 2019. Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in action during the match against Belgium’s David Goffin. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
The tall Russian was a man in a hurry in 2018, starting the year ranked 84th and finishing 16th after winning three titles in a breakout season.
Whatever happens against Djokovic, Medvedev is glad just to feel he belongs in the second week of a Grand Slam.
“It feels really good. I’m happy about my performance, in fact, let’s say (it’s) the first time I’m in the top 16 seeds and I managed to prove it that I’m not there for nothing,” he said.
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