It’s no secret that hard-court guru Daniil Medvedev is not the biggest fan of the clay but that didn’t stop him from defeating a player who has won 19 matches on the red dirt this season in his Madrid opener on Saturday.
Making his fourth appearance at the Mutua Madrid Open, Medvedev picked up just his second career match-win at the Caja Magica with a convincing 6-4, 6-3 result against Italian qualifier Andrea Vavassori.
Vavassori, ranked 164 in the world, has competed exclusively on clay since the beginning of February, winning 19 of 26 matches – across all levels and including qualifying – entering his clash with Medvedev.
The 27-year-old from Torino was coming off the biggest victory of his career, having dispatched former Madrid champion and three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray in the previous round, and put up a solid fight against Medvedev.
But Medvedev masterfully handled the Italian’s big serve to remain undefeated in opening matches in 2023 (now 9-0) and set up a last-32 meeting with Alexander Shevchenko.
“That’s actually great to know because in my opinion any surface, the more you play, the better you will be, so it means that I beat someone who had a lot of matches and if he had that many matches probably he was doing well in Challengers, also in Marrakech and here,” said Medvedev when told about Vavassori’s clay record in 2023.
“I played well today, I felt well, there were some tight moments in the match but when we had rallies from the baseline, I felt like many times I was in control, so I’m really happy about my level.”
Medvedev saved a break point late in the opening set before taking down Vavassori’s serve in the final game to take the lead in 41 minutes.
An inconceivable get from the former US Open champion saw him find the passing shot off a decent Vavassori volley in the eighth game of the second set and he proceeded to break the Italian for a 5-3 advantage. A routine service game earned Medvedev the victory in one hour 22 minutes.
Medvedev has had a sensational season so far and leads the ATP tour with four titles and 32 wins in 2023. The 27-year-old reached five consecutive finals between mid-February and early April and is now hoping to translate that red-hot form to the clay.
He has the weapons to perform well in Madrid’s altitude but is still keeping his expectations in check as he looks to improve his record at the Caja Magica.
Speaking to Tennis TV after his win on Saturday, Medvedev was asked where he was pinning hopes for the tournament. “Nowhere,” the world No.3 responded.
“I just want to play my best. Sure everyone is saying that here I should like it a little bit more than other clay courts because the serve is going a little bit faster, the court is faster. So far I haven’t done well in Madrid but today was a great match so I just hope for more matches like this the next two weeks.”
Earlier in the year, Medvedev explained to reporters in Dubai that he has the potential to excel on the surface but that many things need to fall into place for him in order to do that.
“I know that I can play good, it’s just that if on hard court sometimes I can be having a bad day and maybe win the match and be better the next day; on a clay court, on a bad day, I probably lose the matches easily, and then you see the tantrums,” he said with a laugh.
“It’s funny, because in Doha, the (hard) court was really slow, probably one of the slowest, together with Rotterdam a few years back. And my wife told me that my coach Gilles (Cervara) was watching me play, and I was running everywhere, doing lobs, returning smashes, and he was like, ‘Damn, if Daniil could move well on clay, I think he would be unbeatable’.
“And that’s true, I never was able to move really well on clay. I slide not before the shot, but after the shot, because I don’t know, maybe I’m scared or something. Of course I’m trying to work on it. I’m sure I can be even bigger on clay.”
We’re sure too!