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Now favourite for the title, Medvedev marches into Australian Open second round

With the absence of nine-time champion Novak Djokovic, the reigning US Open champion is the big favourite to win his second consecutive Grand Slam title

Daniil Medvedev in action during his first round match Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in action during his first round match against Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen Image Credit: AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Australian Open 2022 | Draw Order of play | Medvedev – Laaksonen (1st round)

World No 2 Daniil Medvedev kicked off his bid for a second consecutive Grand Slam title with a straight sets win over Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen on Tuesday.

Medvedev won 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 in one hour and 54 minutes on Rod Laver Arena to move into the second round of the 2022 Australian Open, the first time in his career that the Russian, ranked No 2 at the ATP, starts a Grand Slam tournament as the highest ranked player in the draw.

With top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the only player to beat Medvedev in a hardcourt Slam in 2021, being forced out of the tournament after his controversial visa cancellation, Rafael Nadal dropping to No. 5 in the rankings after a truncated 2021 season and Roger Federer still recovering from his knee surgery, Medvedev is the bookmakers’ favourite to win in Melbourne.

Medvedev picks Rafa Nadal as the favourite

Medvedev’s success on hardcourts over the past two years, which yielded him 12 hardcourt titles since 2018 including his first Grand Slam title at the US Open and the 2020 ATP Finals, have made the Russian a firm favourite at Melbourne Park this year. The Russian added his US Open title has given him the confidence that he can beat seven players in a row at the same tournament.

“After US Open, I kind of know that I’m capable of playing seven great matches in a row on the same court or same venue, beating the best players in the world, serving good. Sometimes maybe playing worse but still capable to win matches, and that’s the biggest confidence I can give myself is just knowing that it’s possible. As we see, it’s impossible to win every tournament you play in the year or every tournament you play in your life, but the more you win, the more confidence you give yourself to know for the next one that I’m capable of doing it. That’s the biggest confidence I have right now.”

Speaking about Djokovic, the only player to beat him in a hardcourt Grand Slam in 2021, Medvedev said he would have liked to challenge the Serb on his favourite court but knows he will still have to win seven tough matches to win the title.

“Actually I like challenges, so I would love to have this chance again to play him maybe in the final or something like this here in Rod Laver, even if he beat me or not, it’s a good challenge and I like challenges in my career. But as I said, it cannot change my approach, because it’s still seven tough matches to win. And no matter how I do here, how far I go, if I’m in the final, who I play, it’s not gonna be easy and you need to show your best to win a slam.”

Despite this and perhaps as a way to deflect the focus from himself, the Russian said he picked 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal as the favourite in Melbourne. “I always say that whoever is the highest ranked player is the favourite. So this time, I’m going to go with Rafa Nadal since he has won 20 Grand Slams,” Medvedev said.

As usual, Medvedev played the steadier game on Tuesday, hitting 21 winners to 23 unforced errors while his 29-year-old opponent hit 46 unforced errors to go along with his 23 winners.

Since losing his first match of the season at the ATP Cup to Ugo Humbert, the Russian has played top-notch tennis in Australia and Tuesday’s win was his fourth consecutive victory Down Under.

  • Seeds who lost on Tuesday (1st round) : Basilashvili (21), Isner (22), Humbert (29): Seeds who lost previously: Norrie (12), Harris (30)
  • Seeds who won on Tuesday (1st round) : Medvedev (2), Tsitsipas (4), Rublev (5), Auger-Aliassime (9), Sinner (11), Schwartzman (13), Bautista Agut (15), Fritz (20), Basilashvili (21), Isner (22), Evans (24), Dimitrov (26), Cilic (27), De Minaur (32)

Interestingly, the third set tiebreaker was the 10th time in the last 25 sets (including 2021 ATP Finals, 2022 ATP Cup and 2022 Australian Open) that Medvedev has been extended to a tiebreaker, with the Russian now holding a 4-6 in those tiebreakers.

“Third set he played really top level. I’m happy that I managed to stay calm on my serve. Didn’t face a breakpoint in the third set. Also didn’t have one to break him but that’s when you get to the tiebreak. I’m happy that in the tiebreak I managed to turn it my way. First rounds, actually any rounds in Grand Slam, never easy, and to win in three sets no matter the score is always good.”

Kyrgios – Medvedev is the best player in the world

In the second round, Medvedev will meet Nick Kyrgios, who beat British qualifier Liam Broady. The Australian was quick to praise his next opponent, saying: “He’s probably the best player in the world at the moment. So I’m pretty excited, I’m excited for that moment. That’s why I play the game. I feel like those matches still excite me, to go out there and play the best in the world. That was always something I wanted to prove to people that someone like me could do, win those matches. I’m not going to go into it with a lot of expectation. I’m going to go out there, have some fun, play my game. I have a pretty set-in-stone game plan of what I need to do to have success.

“He’s probably the best player in the world, he does everything extremely well. He’s a hard worker, ticks all the boxes. I’m not going to even think about that now. To play it on John Cain would be – I’m just going to call it the Kyrgios Court – would be fun.”

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