Ahead of the Mutua Madrid Open, Daniil Medvedev outlined his goals for the clay season. But the second seed had his eye on something far more straightforward than lofty targets like a 11th tour-level title or a fourth ATP Masters 1000 crown.
For the second-seeded Russian, as long as he wins one match the trip will be considered a success. After years of going winless in Madrid (0-2), Rome (0-2) and Roland Garros (0-4), Medvedev is eager to get out of the red as he works to translate his world-beating hard-court game onto clay.
“That’s the goal. I always said for me it’s always step by step,” Medvedev said in his pre-tournament press conference. “So the goal actually for all three tournaments, Rome, Roland-Garros, and Madrid, is to at least win one match in each of them.”
Coming from a player who has reached two Grand Slam finals and has been ranked as high as World No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, aiming for one victory might seem a surprising goal. But for Medvedev, keeping things simple might prove the key for a long-awaited clay-court breakthrough.
“Of course, when I come to [a] tournament, the main goal is to win it,” he said. “It’s tougher on clay than on hard courts, so [I] will adjust, try my best, [and] hope to show some good tennis, because that’s the most important. When I show good tennis I can win some great matches.”
There are a few encouraging signs for Medvedev. Most importantly, he’s won ‘some great matches’ on clay already. In 2019, he fought his way into the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters semi-finals with victories over Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas. That same year, he went on to reach the final in Barcelona (l. Thiem) with a victory over two-time champion Kei Nishikori along the way.
Another positive sign? The conditions couldn’t be better for Medvedev. In Madrid, the altitude (667 metres/2,188 feet) has historically made the courts more forgiving for players like Medvedev who prefer faster surfaces.
“I would say it’s more comparable to hard courts here in Madrid because the clay is fast, altitude, serve goes fast,” Medvedev explained. “In the results and in the game, we can see that guys who suffer a little bit on clay can play better here.
“That’s also one of the things that makes me feel more comfortable before the tournament. After, it’s always the same thing that the first match is a first match.”
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Medvedev will have to hit the ground running as he contests his first tournament since the Miami Open presented by Itau due to a positive COVID-19 test ahead of Monte-Carlo. He’ll take on either a qualifier or Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in his opening match. Davidovich Fokina recently reached his first Masters 1000 quarter-final in Monte-Carlo (l. Tsitsipas, walkover) and recorded his first Top 10 win over a resurgent Matteo Berrettini.
“Of course [it] will be a little bit tougher [for me] than other guys,” Medvedev said. “For example, I will be playing maybe Davidovich or [a qualifier]. Davidovich played like five tournaments on clay already. I played zero.
“I definitely need to win some matches to just get this feeling of winning matches on clay, because that’s the most important.”