Daniil Medvedev’s second career major final didn’t go as planned, but all signs point to a spot at the top of the ATP Tour.
Daniil Medvedev has been, without a doubt, one of the best players in the world post-French Open 2020. After taking yet an early loss in Vienna, the 2019 US Open finalist strung together an incredible 20 matches in a row with titles in the Rolex Paris Masters, ATP Finals, and this year’s ATP Cup.
Keep in mind, his victories have come against some of the world’s best along the way. 12 of his 20 victories came against players ranked in the top ten, including his ATP Finals run that saw him defeat all three of the top three players in the world in the span of a few days.
Despite his quick loss to Australia’s tennis king, Novak Djokovic, the now-World. No. 3 has a lot to be proud of. He’s moved behind only Dominic Thiem in the NowGen group in terms of Grand Slam finals (and ahead of him in the rankings). There’s no denying Medvedev’s talent, especially on hard courts. He possesses a vicious ground game, especially on the backhand side, and pairs that with an equally powerful serve. Don’t underestimate him for his tall frame, either. His defensive abilities are also among the best in tennis.
Unfortunately for him, the Big 3 is still around. Novak Djokovic pushed his Grand Slam total to 18 moving the trio’s total to an astounding 58. As good as Medvedev and the others are now, all we can do is compare. At 25 years old, Djokovic had six Grand Slam titles under his belt and had reached the mountaintop of World No. 1. No other player outside the Big 3 except Andy Murray has even gotten to No. 2 in the last 16 years.
Then again, this legendary trio is, well, legendary. It’s unfair to compare the incoming group of players to these three. No one in their right mind can say that they’ll reach the same heights as Djokovic, Nadal, or Federer. That just speaks to how dominant they are.
Despite this, their reign of terror will end eventually, and the ATP’s NowGen will be able to spread their wings fully. With that, the question needs to be asked: Who will take the mantle of World No. 1?
Based on the way he’s been playing, it’s hard not to say Medvedev. While Thiem has the edge in Grand Slam finals (2 in Paris, 1 in Australia, 1 in New York), the World No. 4 has his consistency issues. Injuries have played a role in his slow start to the 2021 season, but losses to Matteo Berrettini and Grigor Dimitrov, paired with a five-set win over Nick Kyrgios have shown his flaws.
Thiem’s serve has given him immense trouble throughout his career. His fiery groundstrokes saved him from a defeat to Alexander Zverev in last year’s US Open final; he finished with a 52% first-serve rate through the first two sets there. His defense, while solid, isn’t on the level of Medvedev’s as a whole. Thiem’s only advantage is surface diversity. Both players aren’t spectacular on grass but Medvedev has a clear disadvantage on clay.
Where the Russian shines is in his overall consistency. His game shows much flatter “peaks and valleys”. His game is well-rounded enough that consistency is never the issue for him. He rarely loses matches. his opponents simply tend to outplay them. Thiem, on the other hand, possesses an arguably higher peak but has a tendency to fall flat from the baseline on many occasions.
The day the Big 3 leaves tennis for good will open a door the size of a military bunker. Grand Slam consistency will be thrown out the window. As for now, the only thing anyone can do is speculate the future, but Daniil Medvedev is an extremely promising player with the ability to reach the World No. 1 ranking in no time at all.