Daniil Medvedev has advanced to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal and turned a booing New York crowd into a bunch of amusing adversaries, according to Nytimes.com reports.
The 23-year-old has become the dominant men’s tennis player of the summer through tactical savvy, finding and exploiting weaknesses in his opponents with a ruthless brilliance.
Now Medvedev has fearlessly taken on the most challenging opponent the United States Open has to offer: the New York crowd.
After two matchups, Medvedev is 2-0.
By giving raucous support to his opponents, the crowd has played into his hands, he said and propelled him into his first Grand Slam quarterfinal. He will play Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday afternoon.
“They kind of don’t understand that they shouldn’t do it,” said Medvedev, a 23-year-old Russian ranked fifth. “I feed from this energy, and that’s what I’m doing this tournament.”
For a player who has lingered in relative obscurity, the heated environment has been a welcome change.
“It’s probably the most electric atmosphere I’ve played in my whole entire life,” Medvedev said. “Sometimes you play the first round of an ATP tournament where there are 50 people watching you on a small court. This is completely different. I’m trying to take this electricity, feed from it, and that’s helped me a lot these last two matches.”
The crowd first turned against Medvedev during his third-round match against Feliciano López on Friday. After losing a point, he angrily snatched a towel away from a ball man, incurring boos and an unsportsmanlike conduct code violation.
Soon after, Medvedev raised his middle finger, out of sight of officials but clearly visible to much of the crowd and the cameras broadcasting the match. The gesture was replayed on the video screens inside the venue, Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Medvedev has been apologetic for those misdeeds and accepted the consequences.
“I caused it,” Medvedev said. “I’m not happy about it, but I have to deal with it, and I deal with it in my own way. The priority for me is to win the match, and if I have to win it by taking all the energy the crowd has, even if it’s against me, I have to do it. I’m there as a sportsman, and my first goal is to win the match.”
Taking negative emotion and turning it into fuel is much easier said than done, Medvedev acknowledged.
“It requires a lot of force and strength inside of you,” he said. “It could easily make you go even madder, and then you lose the match because you’re not concentrating anymore.”
Medvedev is playing not only his matches, but also a role. He doubled down on acting as the antagonist on Sunday evening after beating Dominik Köpfer in four sets, dancing his way to the net as the crowd booed and then goading spectators in an interview — saying he couldn’t have won without them.
“Again, today I was losing, 6-3, 2-0,” Medvedev began. “I was painful in my adductor before the match; I thought I’m not going to play. I was painful in my shoulder; I took as much painkillers as I could. You guys being against me, you gave me so much energy to win, thank you!”
As he had two days earlier, Medvedev then raised his arms and encouraged the crowd to continue serenading him with its disapproval. (Much of the booing, particularly on Sunday, felt playful rather than hostile.)
Medvedev has needed the boost: By making consecutive finals in Washington, Montreal and Cincinnati, he has played 20 singles matches since July 31, and he is physically flagging.
He has taken the court in New York with progressively more tape on his body for each match, yet has reeled off three four-set victories, which he attributes to adrenaline, confidence and hard work toward improving his physicality over the past two and a half years.
“I’m satisfied because I made a step forward in my career,” Medvedev said of reaching the quarterfinals. “I did something I haven’t achieved before, and something I would have dreamt of one and a half weeks ago.
“But I can only be happy if I win the U.S. Open, which is definitely not the easiest of tasks, but that’s why I’m here. I want to show the best every match I play.”
His taunting talk, more familiar to pro wrestling than pro tennis, has stunned and delighted many around the tournament.
Naomi Osaka, who was celebrated for her compassion in comforting Coco Gauff, her young opponent on Saturday, also took considerable enjoyment from Medvedev’s theatrical villainy, which has gone viral on social media.
“The sarcasm is beautiful,” Osaka said.
Though Medvedev has antagonized opponents and officials on court before, playing with the crowd as he has in New York is new. During his run to the final in Montreal last month, he charmed the Francophone crowd by doing his on-court interviews in fluent French.
He also had vocal support from the crowd in Cincinnati during his semifinal victory over top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who has rarely felt warmth from American crowds.
Medvedev was prepared to face Djokovic, whom he has beaten twice this year, in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. Instead, he will face the 23rd-seeded Wawrinka, who said playing against Medvedev was “going to be interesting” given his relationship with the crowd.
“I saw a lot of drama happening this year at the U.S. Open,” said Wawrinka, who lost to Medvedev at Wimbledon in 2017, their only previous meeting. “But it’s a lot of fun also to watch for everybody.”
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