The polarizing ‘chess player’ Medvedev has a dark side

For someone who most often says he plays tennis like it’s chess, Daniil Medvedev had a blank punch in Sunday’s Australian Open final.

Russia’s eccentric world number two has polarized crowds, been dragged to the brink, survived match point, staged incredible comebacks, had a furious meltdown with a chair umpire and yet he’s at her fourth Grand Slam final.

Never afraid to speak his mind or vent his frustrations, 25-year-old Medvedev is closing in on Novak Djokovic’s world rankings and making an impact on world tennis.

He does this in his own distinctive style. Supremely confident in his abilities, direct, playing the unorthodox shot at critical stages of a match, but never boring, always unpredictable.

Medvedev is on the verge of becoming Russia’s greatest male player.

If he were to defeat Grand Slam titan Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final, he would have won two major tournaments to be level with his country’s tennis elite, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin.

His lanky, springy shot makes him a tricky opponent, with a faithful two-fisted backhand and an unconventional approach to building up points.

Grand Slam champion and analyst Mats Wilander describes Medvedev as a “chess player on a tennis court”.

“He’s a chess player. He hits the move he thinks is right at the moment, not because of where the score is, he’s just a very good tactician on the pitch” , said Wilander.

Medvedev is a cerebral character. He excelled in physics and mathematics at school, graduating early and enrolling in a university in his native Moscow to study applied economics and business.

He keeps opponents guessing with his flat, low groundstrokes, while changing pace and angles, blending impenetrable defense with opportunistic attack.

– Dark side –

But with the package comes a dark side of Medvedev.

His jaw-dropping tirade against chair umpire Jaume Campistol in his semi-final with icy rival Stefanos Tsitsipas was surprising.

Campistol had handed him a code violation for “visible obscenity”, which triggered Medvedev in the tipping.

In an extraordinary collapse, Medvedev shouted “Bro, are you crazy?”

“For what? And his father (Tsitsipas) can talk about all the points?”

He became more restless as he repeated himself again.

Then came the jaw-dropping, “Answer my question. Oh my God, you’re so bad, man. How can you be so bad in a grand slam semifinal? Look at me, I’m talking to you. Give him (a) coaching (violation) because his father talks about every point.”

As Medvedev left his chair to return to the pitch, he warned Campistol: “If you don’t (give him a coaching warning)… you are – how can I say it – a little spade. “

He was later fined $12,000 by Tennis Australia for the outburst.

Medvedev later said he regretted the collapse.

“I regret it all the time, because I don’t think it’s right. I know every referee tries to do their best.”

Medvedev, trying to explain why he is so nervous on the pitch, added: “I can get very emotional. I worked on it.

“I think if we look back five years ago when I started playing, there was less attention on me, but I was just incredibly mad.”

He has the innate ability to liquidate opponents and spectators alike with his no-prisoner approach.

So another opportunity at the Australian Open for Medvedev to make an impact on the men’s game.

“It was really emotional. It was a great race, and I’m happy to have the chance to win the title on Sunday.”

msr/dh

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