Meet Daniil Medvedev, the hard-serving Russian star on the rise who stunned Stan Wawrinka at Wimbledon

Editor's note: This interview was originally published on 7 January, 2017. It is being republished in light of the fact that Daniil Medvedev defeated fifth-seed Stanislas Wawrinka on Day One of Wimbledon 2017.

With his booming serve and powerful groundstrokes, Daniil Medvedev has caught the eye of fans and experts alike. The 20-year-old Russian, who turned professional in 2014, had a breakthrough season in 2016 and grabbed headlines when he shocked world number 28, Victor Troicki, to advance to his first ATP quarter-final at the Kremlin Cup. He started the season ranked number 329 in the world, but quickly rose up the ranks and finished in the top 100, with a career-high ranking of 98.

Medvedev’s ascent was largely due to his consistency on the ATP Challenger Tour, where he notched 35 wins and reached at least the last eight in eight consecutive tournaments, ending the year on a high with his first title at St Remy. Now, he’s aiming to replicate the same form at the ATP World Tour level, and in the very first event of 2017, he has managed to reach the semi-finals.

Russian tennis sensation Daniil Medvedev at the Chennai Open.

Russian tennis sensation Daniil Medvedev. Photo courtesy: Chennai Open.

At the Chennai Open, he knocked out Thiago Monteiro in the first round, beat eighth seeded Lu Yen-hsun in the second and then followed it up with a win over giant-slayer Jozef Kovalik in the quarters.

Now, the 6’6” tall Russian faces Israel’s Dudi Sela in his first semi-final appearance. Firstpost caught up with Medvedev in Chennai, for an exclusive chat to try and get to know more about the next-gen player.

FP: When and how did you get into tennis?

DM: When I was six, my mum used to take me to lots of specialised schools for sports and other sections. Once I was attending swimming lessons and we saw an advertisement asking if you wanted to play tennis, and I went there and they took us to a group. I don’t really know how, but step by step, I became the best in the group. I started to play some tournaments, I started to become a player and now I am a professional.

FP: At what age did you decide that tennis is what you wanted to pursue?

DM: When I was 17-years-old, I decided to turn professional. But the first thoughts of it came maybe when I was nine or 10.

FP: Did you have any tennis idols growing up? Were there any players that you looked up to or who inspired you?

DM: I didn’t really have any idols, but I (used to) adore to watch (Marat) Safin play. I was six or seven-years-old, and he was winning Grand Slams, and it was fun to watch him play. He’s a special player, I would say. Currently, I just like to watch the top 10 ranked players, their matches, to see what they do well, to see where I can improve.

FP: What’s been your favourite moment so far in your tennis career?

DM: I think it just happened now! For me, reaching the first semi-final on the ATP World Tour, I think it’s this one.

FP: How did you get your nickname “Bear”?

DM: There’s no grand story behind it. My name, Medvedev, means bear in English. That’s why everyone calls me that since I was a kid.

FP: You are based in France now and that’s where you train in the off-season. Was there a reason behind this move from Moscow?

DM: My elder sister had been living in the south of France for six years and we wanted to move out of Moscow for my career. We had heard a lot about the Jean-Rene Lisnard Academy, a small club and academy in Nice, and decided to try it there. Since then I have been practicing there, and have got good results, so I like it there for now.

FP: If not tennis, then what do you think you would have been doing?

DM: I think I would be in any other sport. Because I am very competitive. I am very good at a lot of PlayStation games, so maybe it could have also been a keyboard sport.

FP: What are you doing when you are not playing tennis?

DM: I hang out with my friends back home. I hang out with them, we go out together, spending time together. I also play a lot of PlayStation. I like playing Fifa and one shooting game called Rainbow Six.

FP: What’s your favourite surface to play on?

DM: I would say grass. I have played only three tournaments so far, but I think I won my first ATP round on grass in Holland. At Wimbledon in qualifying, I got a bit unlucky because I played against (Marcus) Willis, who was on fire, (grins) I think I am going to have some good results on grass in the future.

FP: What’s your favourite shot in tennis?

DM: The return.

FP: And what’s your weakest shot?

DM: I would say my volley. My game at the net, my approach to the net – I am not the best at it right now, so I am going to work on it hard. My serve can be much better too than what it is right now.

FP: What’s the one tournament that you really want to win on the tour?

DM: Grand Slams, particularly the Wimbledon… because I love the grass surface.

FP: What’s the one thing that you love the most about tennis?

DM: The competition.

FP: And what do you hate the most about it?

DM: The competition (laughs)… Because sometimes, you have a tough match and you are disappointed. So it’s the best part and the worst part about tennis.

FP: You also won the Tecnifibre Young Gun on the Road competition in 2016. How was that experience and what have you learnt from that?

DM: It was a lot of fun to compete for half a year. And it was a huge confidence (booster) for me that they picked me as the winner. I had a good year and I hoped for it and worked hard for it. The prize money has helped me fund my next season and it was a great experience.

FP: What are you looking forward to in 2017? What are your goals for this season?

DM: I hope it’s going to be a good year because I had a good off-season and I have been working hard on my game. My main goal is to stay in the top 100, which won’t be that easy and then I will try to reach the top 50.

Updated Date: Jul 04, 2017 10:56 AM

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