Daniil Medvedev made his breakthrough on the major stage in 2019 at the US Open, reaching the final of the competition only to suffer a heartbreaking defeat to Rafael Nadal. The Russian enjoyed a fierce battle with Nadal, displaying fierce resilience to come back from two sets down to take the contest into a decider at Flushing Meadows. However, the experience of the Spaniard proved too much for him to handle, allowing Nadal to clinch the 19th Grand Slam of his career.
Although it was a disappointing defeat to take, Medvedev now has the opportunity to build on his performance on another hard court in Australia. The presence of Nadal along with the king of Melbourne – Novak Djokovic – will make lifting the title an extremely hard proposition. Nadal and Djokovic along with Federer have blocked the way through for the next generation due to their sustained brilliance on the court. However, they have to be dislodged at some time and Medvedev is backed at 7/1 in the Australian Open betting odds to lift the crown.
There are areas of improvement that the 23-year-old will have to hone if he is to secure his maiden Grand Slam. He faced off against Nadal again in a competitive duel in the ATP Tour Finals at the 02 Arena, only to lose out in a deciding third set after previously holding a 5-1 lead and a match point. The Russian put everything into the match and appeared drained for the rest of the tournament, losing the rest of his group encounters against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev.
Whereas the 23-year-old dropped out of the competition with three-straight defeats, his contemporary Tsitsipas rose to the occasion to overcome Federer and then Dominic Thiem to triumph in London. Medvedev has to develop the winning the habit and a clinical edge to beat the elite players on the circuit. He cannot afford to let positions of dominance particularly players of the calibre of Nadal slip. It had ramifications in the ATP Tour Finals, and he cannot allow it to extend to the Australian Open.
The event in Melbourne is a massive opportunity for Medvedev to put down a statement for the rest of the season. Medvedev did not have to face Djokovic in his run to the US Open final after the Serb was forced to withdraw from his contest against Stanislas Wawrinka. The Russian defeated the former champion in four sets on his way to the final. Djokovic has made his home in Melbourne, winning the Australian Open a record seven times, including his triumph last year. The 32-year-old looks to be back to full fitness after battling a string of injury problems and will be eyeing another title to close the gap at the top to Federer on 20 majors.
Medvedev has a good record against the Serb, winning his last two matches. That will give him a great deal of confidence, especially as the latter was a triumph on a hard court on his way to the Cincinnati Masters crown. The ability is all there for the Russian to topple the leading two men in Australia, but he has to prove that he has the killer instinct to achieve it.