“I can do big things on clay” – Medvedev confident after breakthrough 2023 clay-court season

The Russian enjoyed a successful clay-court swing last year, having previously struggled to get to grips with the surface

Daniil Medvedev, Madrid Open, 2024 Daniil Medvedev practises at the 2024 Madrid Open Zuma / Panoramic

Daniil Medvedev has endured a torrid relationship with clay-court tennis throughout the course of his career.

Over the years, he has done little to hide his disdain for the European dirt, citing everything from the slow, uneven nature of the ball bounce to an excess of laundry due to red-stained clothes and shoes.

At least, that was the case prior to 2023. Medvedev enjoyed a highly successful – and greatly unexpected – clay-court swing last season, winning the Italian Open in the unlikeliest of fashions as the Russian finally appeared to turn a corner in his relationship with the surface.

This year, he returns to clay tennis with a new perspective about what he can achieve over the next six or so weeks after his triumphant previous outing in Rome last season.

Despite a disappointing early defeat to compatriot Karen Khachanov at the Monte-Carlo Masters, Medvedev remains upbeat about his prospects and insists that he and clay-court tennis share a budding relationship.

“I’m enjoying clay more and more,” he told press during media day ahead of the Madrid Open this week.

“I have good results, good victories, and I feel like I can do big things on clay. I want to try to win more tournaments like I did last year in Rome, try to do better in Rome and Roland-Garros and for this I need to play good here in Madrid.”

While Medvedev may have got to grips with the slower, heavier conditions of the Italian Open, playing in Madrid poses its own unique challenges.

Daniil Medvedev, Madrid 2023
Daniil Medvedev, Madrid 2023 – © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Due to the high altitude, the ball flies through the air, rewarding both spin – as is customary on clay – and powerful servers alike. Medvedev, as a flat-hitting, baseline specialist, had tended to struggle in the conditions of the Spanish capital.

Nevertheless, the world No 4 remains optimistic about the remainder of the clay-court season, despite his limitations on the surface, and is feeling at home in a city he is fond of.

“I’m honestly feeling good. I feel this every year, more and more when I go to clay courts,” Medvedev continued.

“When I say enjoy, I know that my game is a little bit more limited than on hard courts in terms of what I can do. And in terms of if I play a good match on hard courts, I know that 90 percent of the matches I’m going to win.

“On clay court, that is not the case. Every match is 50/50 I would call it. But I know what we can do. I have to do from my side what I want to do and I’m trying to do it and I feel confident about it, so I’m feeling good.

“I love the city, it’s great, so I’m happy to come back here.”

with clay-court relations improving, the focus will be on a more successful run at roland-garros

Replicating the success of last year’s title-winning run in Rome may be a stretch for Medvedev this time around as adept and seasoned clay-courters find their stride during this stretch in the calendar.

But Medvedev – one of the most dangerous players on hard courts – is now a genuine threat to the field on the red clay also, something which hasn’t always been the case.

Just under twelve months ago, however, the former US Open champion could not back up his breakthrough victory at the Italian Open, falling in the first round of Roland-Garros just as it looked as though he’d secured himself a more prominent role at the year’s second Grand Slam.

This season, the focus will likely be more about moulding himself into the best clay-court player he can be in time for Roland-Garros.

A title along the way would of course be greatly well-received, but Medvedev’s eyes will most likely be on improving last year’s finish in Paris in the hope he can cause some damage to some of the more accomplished clay-courters near the business end of the tournament.

With the Paris 2024 Olympics also on the horizon, and taking place on the clay courts of Roland-Garros, becoming a player others will fear at this year’s French Open is more significant for Medvedev than it’s ever been.

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