“Every bounce is a bad bounce” – Daniil Medvedev is trying to learn to love clay court tennis, but it’s complicated for him

Daniil Medvedev may be riding a wave of confidence into the clay, but that hasn’t changed the fact that he dreads playing on the surface.

Daniil Medvedev Monte-Carlo 2023Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic Daniil Medvedev Monte-Carlo 2023Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic

The confidence is still there, right alongside the contempt for the clay. And that explains why Daniil Medvedev was able to knock off the talented Lorenzo Sonego on Wednesday in Monte-Carlo. It also explains why we shouldn’t expect the hottest player on the ATP Tour to stay hot for long.

Medvedev says so himself…

“There’s no rhythm on clay. Every bounce is a bad bounce. And even when it’s a good bounce, you are expecting a bounce so you cannot get into a rhythm.”

— Daniil Medvedev

“I always struggle on clay. Every match is a struggle. But I did have some good matches on clay,” he said on Wednesday after taking out Sonego 6-3, 6-2 to set a round of 16 clash with Alexander Zverev.

He may be confident – Medvedev has won 25 of 26 matches on tour after all – but the man who once compared clay court tennis to being “in the dirt like a dog” hasn’t changed his tune about playing on clay.

“There’s no rhythm on clay. Every bounce is a bad bounce. And even when it’s a good bounce, you are expecting a bounce so you cannot get into a rhythm,” he said, adding: “but I managed to play good against a very strong player on Play. Lorenzo’s  very strong on clay.”

“I hope to bring this confidence further”

For the moment Medvedev’s confidence is competing with his contempt. He loves winning, but he hates playing on clay. It doesn’t seem like a sustainable situation.

The Russian admits to trying to play tricks on his mind, but in the same breath he acknowledges that they don’t always work.

“Every time I come on clay just before the first hit, I’m like trying to put it in my head that [I need to]  try to take pleasure playing on clay,” he said in an interview with Tennis Channel on Wednesday. “Try to enjoy it. Try to get used to it. Try to play better.

“And after 10 minutes I’m like ‘Wow, that’s really not my thing.’” 

To be fair, Medvedev confessed that he hated the hard courts at Indian Wells and complained about them for two weeks. He ended up playing brilliantly, reaching the final.

Could the same thing happen at Monte-Carlo?

“I need to try to be at my best and today was pretty good,” Medvedev said, adding that the confidence he has gained since February is helping him, no matter how he feels about his clay game.

“It’s completely different on clay, but confidence is confidence,” he said. “It’s about winning matches because it’s always two players that play and one is going to win. I hope to bring this confidence even further.”

A tough challenge with Zverev, and a rivalry that goes way back

Medvedev will face Alexander Zverev on Thursday in Monte-Carlo, marking the pair’s 14th meeting. The pair’s rivalry, which dates back to 2016 at tour-level, has taken place exclusively on hard court.

Believe it or not, Medvedev boasts a win over Zverev in a clay-court final that dates back to the junior days.

“We had some tough matches,” Medvedev said of the German. “We played for the first time maybe seven years ago on the ATP tour, and juniors it is maybe 12 years ago. I remember I beat him once in a final on clay in juniors. It’s gonna be a different story. I saw him in his first two matches, he seems to be in good shape. So I’m just gonna have to be at my best.” 

The world No 5 knows that Zverev is a formidable test on any surface, let alone clay.

“I don’t know if I played anyone more than Sascha,” he said. “First time on clay. He loves clay, I think, maybe even it is his best surface even if he likes to play on hard courts also. So it will be a very tough test and I have to be at my best to try to win it.”

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