Why Daniil Medvedev winning the Japan Open is great for tennis
Daniil Medvedev shocked the home favourite Kei Nishikori in the ATP 500 Japan Open Final to lift his third title of the season. Medvedev is in a hot streak of form. In this tournament itself, he has gone into matches with Milos Raonic, Schwartzman and Shapovalov as the underdog and has defeated them in straight sets. So, though Nishikori was the favourite in the final, considering his experience, versatility and the fact that he was playing in his home tournament, this result is certainly not that unexpected.
Medvedev first played an ATP final at 2017 Chennai Open, which he lost to Roberto Batista Agut. He could not reach another final the whole year, even though there were some great performances here and there. The turning point for him probably was the Sydney International 2018 which he won after a hard fought match against his fellow next-gen star Alex de Minaur.
After losing the first set 1-6, he fought not only his opponent, but the vociferous crowd that was applauding every move of the homeboy – almost in a Davis Cup-like scenario. That victory must have filled him with the self-belief that he seemed to lack in the previous years.
Medvedev loves adversity. All his three title wins have come in conditions where he was playing against the home favourite. For his second title, he defeated the American Steve Johnson at Winston-Salem Open and now he has defeated Kei Nishikori in Japan against all odds!
There is no doubt that 2018 is Medvedev’s breakout year. Unlike his contemporaries such as Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios, it has taken him more time to come into his own. But his entry into the top echelon of the ATP tour, though a bit delayed, is great news for the game. His unassuming demeanour and steady, almost workman like approach to tennis is in stark contrast to the flashy style of his fellow contemporary stars.
However, his Japan Open victory and the overall great form may not be great news for Roger Federer and his legion of fans. They are set to collide in a block-buster second round of the Shanghai Open. Federer needs to be at his absolute best against this new star in the making.