Daniil Medvedev enjoyed a breakthrough at the end of 2020, triumphing at the ATP Finals in London to put a mark down that he is ready for compete for major honours. The Russian was only playing in the event for the second time of his career, but he rose to the occasion to defeat Dominic Thiem in straight sets in the final.
The victory must not be a false dawn like the majority of his 2020 campaign. The 24-year-old had failed to kick on from a promising 2019 campaign when he capped the year by reaching the final of the US Open, only to be beaten by Rafael Nadal.
He crashed out of the Australian Open in the fourth round of the competition, losing out at the hands of Stanislas Wawrinka in a five-set thriller. Medvedev was then beaten in the first round of the French Open, suffering a humiliating defeat to unseeded Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.
The Russian was in better form at the final slam of the season at the US Open. He surged all the way to the last four of the competition, which included a victory over his compatriot Andrey Rublev. However, Thiem loomed large in the semi-finals and produced the better tennis on the day to secure a straight-sets victory before eventually taking the crown himself with a triumph over Alexander Zverev. Medvedev got a semblance of revenge in the ATP Finals, but unlike his colleague, the Russian does not have Grand Slam title to his name.
The Australian Open offers his first opportunity to lay claim to a Grand Slam, although it has not been a happy venue for the 24-year-old. In his previous four attempts, Medvedev has only progressed as far as the fourth round – doing so in 2019 and 2020. Despite his poor form in Melbourne, he is backed at 11/2 in the latest tennis odds to take the title. Medvedev should be able to perform on the hard surface given his exploits at the US Open and the ATP Finals. There is no difference in the surfaces in the three competitions despite their being at different spots of the globe.
Medvedev should have no fear over facing the elite players in the draw. In his run to the final in London in December, the Russian overcame Novak Djokovic in the group stage before defeating Nadal in three sets in the semi-finals.
Therefore, the 24-year-old should be full of confidence to attack the competition and claim his maiden Grand Slam crown. The longer he goes without winning a title, the more pressure will build on his shoulders. Players have been daunted by prospect in the past, and he will feel that he missed an opportunity at Flushing Meadows given Djokovic’s premature exit.
Medvedev spurned the momentum he built after reaching the US Open final with an underwhelming performance in Melbourne last season. The Russian cannot afford to let lightning strike twice and kick off the new term with a whimper. There is a huge opportunity for Medvedev and he has the quality to make a statement in the men’s game that he has well and truly arrived on the scene.