Does Medvedev have a chance at Roland Garros?
The Paris TBS is a week away. And Daniil Medvedev, who hasn’t played for a month, urgently needs to get in touch with the ground. That’s why he’s in Geneva, at the 250 series tournament, suffering with the difficult primers of the tour: Ruud, Ramos-Vignolas, Fognini, here, and Tim, who expects to gain form. But what about Roland Garros 2022 – any chance?
Medvedev hates the dirt – a myth
Medvedev’s team has traditionally expanded its lineup for the primer season. Gilles Servare will be supported by two well-known Russians – Igor Andreyev and Igor Kunitsyn. The first one is Dani’s friend from the National Team and an expert on Rafa Nadal who has been helping Russia No. 1 on clay for four years already. Kunitsyn is a newcomer to the team.
As the president of the Russian Tennis Federation Shamil Tarpischev said, this is a planned help not only for Daniil, but also for our tennis players in general.
“We form , who goes where. Kunitsyn is going to Roland Garros the day after tomorrow to talk to ours, who will play the qualifiers. Andreev and Kunitsyn always travel in pairs, we know each other well from the national team. In Dani’s question, they will help in finding a fast form, they will give you tips on the ground. It’s a common thing because it’s a backbone that works with our guys.”
Medvedev and Andreev hit it off back in 2019 – then Igor also joined the team as an outside coach consultant. And overall, he turned a dismal clay season into a nice raid on the tops. At the Masters in Monte Carlo, the Russian took out two of the top ten at once: he dealt with Stefanos Tsitsipas, and a match later he said goodbye to Novak Djokovic. But he unexpectedly lost in the semifinals to Serb Dusan Lajovic.
He did the same thing later in the tournament: at the pentameter in Barcelona, Danya blocked the way for the same Ramos-Vignolas, Macdonald and Nishikori. It was only in the final that Medvedev scorched a motivated Tim (4-6, 0-6). It was already clear at that time that Daniel knew how to play and win on clay.
But Daniil’s unsuccessful Paris major came to a head in 2021: Medvedev only lost in the quarter-finals to Stefanos Tsitsipas, but he put up a good fight. The Russian got beyond the first round for the first time in his career: Dan took four matches in Paris, losing only a set. It turned out that it was Andreev who had a hand in this success. He gave the Russian confidence and even helped him to fall in love with the coverage.
Semifinalist of the Russian Open and the first Russian to beat Nadal on the ground
Igor’s tandem on the World No.2 team is the result of his past merits. For example, in 2005 on slow surfaces, Andreev was the first Russian to beat Nadal, who had just started his career, 7-5, 6-2 in almost an hour and a half.
His personal breakthrough came in 2007, his first and only quarterfinal at the TBS. At Roland Garros Andreev beat third-ranked Andy Roddick, then Chilean Nicolas Massa, Paul-Henri Mathieu and Marcos Baghdatis. Only in the semifinal match did he lose to then sixth-ranked Novak Djokovic. That flurry of results was joined by semi-finals in Gstaad and quarter-finals in Amersfoort, Sopot, New Haven, Metz and Moscow. Then he won the ATP Award for Cumulative Player of the Year.
Why does the Russian need another specialist from Russia – Igor Kunitsyn? Most likely because of his experience of recovering from injuries – the ex-tennis player was hindered by eternal pain in the wrist. Now he will help Daniil psychologically.
The more so, Igor’s mastery, though in a duet, was marked on the sand. He is a winner in Davis Cup doubles matches, and the tandem with Dmitry Tursunov sensationally reached the WG semifinals in 2008 when they lost to the Canadian-Serbian duo and second-seeded Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic.
What to expect at WG2022: Dropshots and tinkering
The sand of Paris last year was especially fast and looked more like hard. But Daniil’s serve is faster there, and his backhand is sharper. This is why it is especially important for Medvedev what he will serve this time.
Because at RG2021 Danya bombarded the first ones in every match, and their number sometimes exceeded a dozen. He scored 14 firsts with Garin in the fourth round, and 10 with the American Opelka the day before. As a result, his win percentage on his first serve was reaching 100, a regular 86% and higher. His opponent’s break point realization was next to nil.
The second know-how on the ground is netballs. Carlos Alcaraz actively uses them now, although it is believed that they are more effective on hard or grass because of the bounce. Daniil’s netballs were flying as close to the net as possible and were getting absolutely invalid – he took an average of 70% of winnings from the cable.
The third finding was dropshots. The owner of one of the most powerful curve shots from the forehand in the noughties, Andreev showed Medvedev the trick as well. The balls don’t slip across the court, but bounce higher off it. The court also absorbs less of the speed of the curveball – meaning it doesn’t give his opponents as much time to respond. Let’s see what trumps the tandem will unlock this year!
As early as May 17, Medvedev will take to the court in Geneva for the first time since his injury. The goal is to get a feel for the ball and the surface and get into a competitive rhythm.
“The main thing is for Medvedev to work in Geneva. We need to get a couple of laps in. His nervous system needs to work out. We need to adapt to the ground, check the physics. At Roland Garros it’s desirable to confirm a quarterfinal,” Tarpischev said confidently.
It is hard to bet that with prime Alcaraz, Tsitsipas, a finalist of two Masters on the ground already, and Djokovic gaining momentum, the recently operated Daniel has a chance of something serious. But according to Tarpischev, if he has a good schedule, he can reach the quarterfinals in Paris.