bsence makes the heart grow fonder — well, so it seems in the case of Daniil Medvedev.
Despite seemingly having the weapons to play well on grass, the big-serving Russian simply could not master it, with his previous best at SW19 being a last-16 appearance in 2021.
Such were his frustrations, he altered his ATP Tour profile so that the hard courts, where he has habitually had his most success, became his preferred surface to the green, green grass of Wimbledon.
This year, it was almost as if a flick has been switched for him, having had a year out from Wimbledon following the tournament’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players competing. It gave him time to watch and consider how best to master it.
“I always said I want to be here, I want to play,” said Medvedev. “Wimbledon is an amazing tournament. I wanted to do well because it was my worst grand slam.
“I never managed to get into the flow here to make it click. So, I was just disappointed last year that I didn’t have this opportunity to try to prove to myself that I can go for in Wimbledon. That’s why I was really motivated this year. I want to do well here, I want to try. This time, I kind of put more pressure on myself. I was like ‘I had to do well here’.
“Sometimes it’s tricky because by putting more pressure, you become more vulnerable. But I managed to do it so I’m happy so far. I’m going to put even more pressure for the next two matches.”
His forced absence from Wimbledon has played no small part in him enjoying a strong 2023. Today, however, he knows he is the underdog and will have limited crowd support against Carlos Alcaraz, who was long ago tipped for the final against Novak Djokovic.
Much like Djokovic, Medvedev can have this love-hate relationship with the crowd. Against Chris Eubanks, who he beat in five sets, the crowd were undeniably on the side of the American.
Medvedev is no stranger to berating the crowd if he feels they are against him — and he may yet have to employ that facet again on his first Centre Court appearance this year, having played four of his five matches to date on No1.
Intriguingly, the pair have met before at Wimbledon, with Medvedev winning in straight sets during his previous tournament, in 2021. Today, he believes he faces an entirely different prospect who now looks at home on grass.
Of world No 1 Alcaraz’s previous struggles on the surface, Medvedev said: “Everyone saw that he’s amazing but everyone was wondering is he going to find the way to miss less producing the same power. And he did it quite fast, that’s what’s pretty amazing.”
The same could be said of Medvedev, bar the speed of his improvement on grass. At his fifth Wimbledon, he’s finally cracked it.