Having toppled World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the US Open final, Daniil Medvedev had hoped to continue his mastery over the Serb when the two faced off in the Paris Masters final a couple of months later.
The World No. 2 took a one-set lead only to see the 20-time Grand Slam champion change his tactics and storm back into the match. Djokovic went on to complete the comeback with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 win.
Two weeks later, the two have an opportunity to face off in the last match of the season. While Medvedev cruised into the ATP Finals summit clash with a 6-4, 6-2 demolition of Casper Ruud, Djokovic faces Alexander Zverev tonight in his semifinal in a repeat of their Tokyo Olympics showdown.
Should the five-time ATP Finals champion reach the final, Medvedev and his team want to be ready.
Ahead of the season-ending event in Turin, the ATP caught up with the Russian's coach Gilles Cervara, who said he was confident of solving the Djokovic puzzle this time around. Citing the example of legendary rivals Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, Cervara admitted that playing the Serb frequently has made Medvedev a better player.
"It’s fun for me because I like to analyse many things to find solutions," Cervara said. "Before the Paris final, we expected Novak could change something in his game and he did.
"Again, I read many times… I read that Agassi said Sampras made him better and Sampras said Agassi made him better," he added. "It’s exactly the same. When you play top players like this, after each match you try to find the solution to solve the problem. It can be the same for us if we have a chance to play Novak this week.
"We know that he’s able to make another type of game," he continued. "If you keep in your mind that he’s able to play like this, it makes you a bit more ready if it happens again. But now it’s our turn to find the solution first."
"It’s okay to think about this, it’s nothing bad" - Cervara on Daniil Medvedev's No. 1 aspirations
Medvedev's consistent performances in the last few years, which include the 2020 ATP Finals and the 2021 US Open titles, have catapulted him to a career-best No. 2 ranking. With a 54-12 win-loss record and four titles for the year, the 25-year-old has firmly established himself at the top of the men's tour.
After his fantastic North American hardcourt swing, the Russian was even within touching distance of grasping the year-end No. 1 ranking. But Medvedev's early loss at the Indian Wells Masters combined with Djokovic's triumph at the Paris Masters put paid to those hopes.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion went on to finish the year as the world's best player for an unprecedented seventh time.
Having lost the chance this year, Medvedev and Cervara remain motivated to eventually wrest it from Djokovic's grasp. The French coach admitted that reaching the No. 1 ranking does indeed remain "a goal" for the team but he also believes "it's just a process."
"It’s okay to think about this, it’s nothing bad," he said. "It’s a goal, so it’s trying to reach the goal. For me it’s if you play well, if you win more matches than the other players, then you will become No. 1. It’s just a process.
"When you get closer to this ranking, maybe you start to realise that you can become No. 1 and you want it more," he added.
Cervara is happy with his ward's overall season. Speaking about Medvedev's improvements in 2021, he went on to point out that he was impressed with the Russian's physical as well as mental level throughout the season.
Cervara pointed to Medvedev's encouraging results at the French Open since the claycourt Major had previously been tough for the Russian.
"It’s so many things physically, mentally," he said. "Being able to stay at this level week after week. To stay stable during the whole year like this.
"Even during the clay season, there were tough moments before the French Open," he added. "To see he was able to find a good dynamic during the summer, it’s always a good pleasure and good feeling that he was able to find his best any time in the season even if just before it was tough."