Daniil Medvedev Caps off Great US Swing with Cincy trophy Win

Photo courtesy of wikipedia commons
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia commons

Daniil Medvedev won the Cincy title beating David Goffin 7-6, 6-4 in the final. The title is the Russian’s first ATP 1000 trophy, capped off a three week streak reaching finals in Washington, Montreal and Mason, Ohio, and sees him rise to No.5 in the world.

The Russian 9th seed got off to as good a start as he could hope for, leading 4-1 in the first set, but the Belgian 16th seed Goffin fought back to take it to a tiebreaker.

Medvedev, who after a tiring run in Monte Carlo, let a 5-1 first set lead in the semis to Dusan Lajovic slip, could have been forgiven, playing his 16th match in 3 weeks, for falling prey to fatigue and a strong opponent again, but Medvedev won the tiebreak with conviction.

Medvedev then broke Goffin early in the second set and held all the way to the end.

In the final game, he was finally troubled by Goffin on his serve, but he did not give in, coming back from 15-40 down to hit a second service winner and hit 3 aces in a row to win his fifth career title, second of the season, and 1st ATP 1000 title.

Medvedev joined Sascha Zverev (Rome ’17), Grigor Dimitrov (Cincy ’17), Jack Sock (Paris-Bercy ’17), Juan Martin del Potro (IW ’18), John Isner (Miami ’18), Karen Khachanov (Paris-Bercy ’18) Dominic Thiem (IW ’19) and Fabio Fognini (Monte Carlo ’19) as first time ATP titlists in the last 3 years.

Over that period of 21 ATP 1000 tournaments, there have been 12 different winners.

Before Zverev broke through in Rome two and a half years ago, the ATP 1000s were a closed shop winner wise for a good six years. From Indian Wells ’11 to Rome ’17, over the course of 58 ATP 1000 events, there were a grand total of 8 winners- Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Ferrer, Tsonga, Wawrinka and Cilic.

Djokovic looked set to add a 34th ATP 1000 title to his collection in Cincy last week, with Andrey Rublev knocking Roger Federer out in round 3, until, Medvedev, trailing 3-6, 2-3, decided to start serving big on his second delivery and going for his ground strokes a little more, making the most of the extra pace the Cincy courts offer.

The Russian has other assets faster hard courts favor- he’s a deceptively good mover for a man 198cm tall, and not only covers the court well but also maximizes the space open to him with his ball placement, moving his opponents around the court and opening it up for, usually, a back hand winner or a good enough back hand to force an error.

He’s had plenty of practice honing that game of late, reaching the Citi Open and Montreal finals, and that form and confidence was too much for Djokovic in the semis who had not played since that historic Wimbledon victory over a month ago before.

In the Cincy final, Medvedev managed to put behind him the disappointment of losing to Nick Kyrgios in two tiebreakers in the Citi Open final and going down in straights to Nadal, losing the second set to love, in the Montreal final.

Having done the hard work of upsetting Djokovic, Medvedev, who was 1-1 with his Cincy final opponent Goffin, beating him in straights in Melbourne this year, but losing 7-9 in the fifth at Wimbledon, kept his mind on the task in hand, beating one of the game’s most consistent, quickest and talented players, and his emotions, which have been know to get the better of him, in check.

While Medvedev became a new man in Cincy, Djokovic is not the beast he once was in ATP 1000s.A host of young players have matured enough to be able to take him out since he got back to his Slam winning ways at Wimbledon ’18- Tsitsipas in Canada ’18, Khachanov in Paris-Bercy, (Zverev in the WTF finals- not an ATP 1000, but a big non Grand slam event), and now Medvedev, twice, in Monte Carlo and now Cincy.

Medvedev’s big and ever improving serve is a tough one for Djokovic who likes to return on the baseline and has always struggled with big servers. Medvedev is also able to out do Djokovic at his best game with his great range on the backhand side, his consistency, and even, as he demonstrated in their final game in Cincy, on the return. Of all those features, it is the backhand, which as Zverev has done to Djokovic a couple of noteworthy times, has outdone the Serb and been the decisive shot.

Medvedev’s Cincy win is a welcome one to those fans itching to see new faces on tournament podiums come Sunday.

The final could have been better contested, but Goffin did all he could against an opponent who was 2018’s winningest hard courter and looks set to be so again in 2019.

The empty seats, some on offer for less than $20 yet still the stadium looked at best three quarters full, may suggest that casual fans are not going to travel out to Mason, Ohio unless one of the Big 3 is playing. But that comparative lack of interest in the final is, perhaps, as much down to the location of the tournament, the at times hard to deal with humidity, and the overall high price of tickets and the costs of attending these tournaments when purchased in advance.

Next up for the Russian is a tournament which won’t have any problems attracting fans, but which will pose more issues for Medvedev when it comes to holding the trophy- the US Open.

While winning an ATP 1000 was once a strong indicator of a young player winning a slam in the not too distant future, that is no longer the way, as Sascha Zverev is a case in point.

Players of Medvedev and Zverev’s generation have had, other than the Davis Cup, no exposure to five set matches outside of slams. While the ATP 1000 finals once gave them, outside of the Majors, a taste of a five setter with all its twists and turns, they now venture onto surfaces in Melbourne, Paris, London, and New York, no longer differentiated or fast enough to give their younger legs and less fearless heads an edge, ill equipped to deal with the pressures and demands of five sets at a slam.

Still, an ATP 1000 in the bag, Medvedev will have a little more experience and a lot more confidence, which could, if the tennis Gods are kind, make all the difference in New York. If those Gods are feeling a little cruel, as they have been to the young ones of late at the Majors, Medvedev will always have Cincy ’19, and, for now, aged just 23, plenty of hard court slams ahead of him.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.

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