Resurgent Daniil Medvedev sinks Jannik Sinner to claim Miami Open

Daniil Medvedev took to the court in Rotterdam on 14 February seemingly in the most difficult period of his career as a top player. Having not won a big tournament throughout the 2022 season, an early defeat at the Australian Open pushed him from the top 10 for the first time in three years. He felt he was doing all the right things on and off the court, yet nothing was working. His confidence was shot.

As Medvedev fell down a set during his opening match in Rotterdam his coach, Gilles Cervara, responded to his frustration with a simple command: “Keep going.” Medvedev listened, recovering from a set down to win and used it as his catchphrase as he gradually embarked on one of the most impressive runs in recent years.

He has not stopped since. On Sunday, seven weeks later, Medvedev defeated Jannik Sinner 7-5, 6-3 to win the Miami Open title for the first time in his career, his fifth ATP Masters 1000 title and his 19th ATP title overall. During this incredible run of form across three continents, Medvedev has won four titles and reached five finals in five consecutive tournament weeks, winning 24 of his past 25 matches. He will rise to No 1 in the ATP race and he returns to the top four of the rankings.

In the final, the Russian faced an opponent in the best form of his life. Sinner had immediately followed up a semi-final run in Indian Wells by reaching another semi-final in Miami without dropping a set and then the 21-year-old had produced the win of his career in a delirious glimpse into the future of men’s tennis, defeating Carlos Alcaraz in three sets to return to the final.

The victory only afforded him another incredibly difficult contest against Medvedev, who had already compiled a 5-0 record against Sinner. The 27 year-old has proven a nightmare match-up for Sinner, continually putting pressure on his opponent’s inconsistent serve with his own precise serving while blunting the Italian’s clean, destructive ball-striking with his tireless defence.

While Sinner’s contest with Alcaraz was played at a breathless pace, the high-octane exchanges producing boundlessly creative shotmaking, Medvedev refused to offer him the pace he craves. He immediately pulled his opponent into long, slow rallies, testing the youngster’s discipline as he tried to provoke as many errors as possible. After two games, Sinner was already panting heavily from the back of the court.

Medvedev commiserates with Sinner at the end of the match
Medvedev commiserates with Sinner at the end of the match. Photograph: Cristóbal Herrera/EPA

Although Medvedev conceded the first break in a messy service game with three double-faults, he responded by immediately cutting mistakes from his game and constantly prodding errors from Sinner with his defence. After forcing Sinner to work harder for his service games throughout the set, Medvedev pounced in Sinner’s final service game at 6-5, landing every return deep, refusing to miss and eventually frustrating Sinner to take the first set.

With the first set secured, Medvedev eased to victory. Sinner had called the doctor on-court in the middle of the first set and as Medvedev’s serving, consistency and intelligence moved him closer to victory, Sinner struggled with both his game and his body. He fought until the end, attempting to shorten points and chase down the net, but Medvedev held on.

Despite how much more attention his peers received earlier in their careers, Medvedev continues to make his case as the best player of his generation. By winning his 19th ATP title and 5th Masters 1000, both tallies are now equal to Alexander Zverev’s haul. Medvedev’s 19 titles have remarkably come in 19 different tournaments, an unprecedented achievement.

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He has pulled off these achievements by gradually crafting such a unique brand of tennis, including standing metres behind the baseline on return of serve yet marking himself as one of the best returners in the world. His groundstrokes are unorthodox but unimpeachable.

Medvedev proudly refers to himself as a hard-court specialist, and he has proven it by reaching the final of every important hard-court tournament in the calendar. The next question for his career is how effectively he can translate his game to other surfaces as the clay and grass seasons beckon, including Wimbledon, where he will be permitted to play after the All England Club lifted last year’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players.


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