Unorthodox but Effective: The Mystery Behind Daniil Medvedev’s Style of Play

Published 11/23/2020, 5:59 AM EST
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev celebrates during his group stage match against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs


Having won nine career titles so far, Daniil Medvedev has become a force to reckon with. The Russian possesses an unorthodox playing style and rock-solid defense from the baseline which helps in offsetting his opponent’s on-court position. The 6 ft 6 inches stature equips him with a powerful service to hammer a barrage of aces, aiding in winning quick and free points.

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The year 2019 proved to be Medvedev’s breakthrough when he claimed his first-ever ATP Master’s 1000 title at Cincinnati. The then 23-year-old defeated Novak Djokovic in a thrilling three-set semifinal and eventually won the final against David Goffin. In fact, after the loss, Djokovic described Medvedev as a “very complete” player with a backhand that is hard to break down.

Tennis – ATP Finals – The O2, London, Britain – Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in action during his final match against Austria’s Dominic Thiem REUTERS/Toby Melville

Medvedev’s biggest weapon is his backhand, which he hits with depth, pace, and precision, by never giving his rivals a straightforward shot to play. However, he has an unconventional forehand, with a short backswing but a quick slapping motion to hit long and low bouncing groundstrokes.

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Having one of the flattest forehands in the game, Medvedev’s coach, Gilles Cervara, has been helping his pupil to add more topspin to the shot to gain an advantage on other surfaces. Meanwhile, he efficiently uses the slice backhand to maneuver his opponent around the court and remains mentally strong under pressure situations.

However, Medvedev has admitted in the past that his gangly frame does not give him raw power, but he plays tactically and meticulously mixes up things to choose the best shot for certain situations.

Stellar career of Daniil Medvedev

Coming back to 2019, Medvedev reached his maiden Grand Slam final at the US Open, up against Rafael Nadal. Despite losing the opening two sets, the Russian fought back valiantly to push the match into the deciding set. However, Medvedev squandered multiple break point opportunities in the fifth set and suffered a heartbreaking loss but pushed Nadal to his limit.

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Following the tough loss at the 2019 US Open, Medvedev won two back-to-back titles at St. Petersburg Open and Shanghai Masters. He achieved his career-high ranking of No.4 and made an indelible mark on the ATP tour.

Tennis – ATP Finals – The O2, London, Britain – Russia’s Daniil Medvedev celebrates with the trophy after winning the final match against Austria’s Dominic Thiem Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

Notably, Stefanos Tsitsipas termed Medvedev as having a “very, very weird game” and contended that the Russian can make you feel uncomfortable when you play against him. Interestingly, Medvedev himself agreed with Tsitsipas’ assessment and revealed that many people think of his playing style as ugly.

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Despite having a disappointing 2020 season with a string of poor performances, Medvedev found his rhythm at the closing end of the year and won the Rolex Paris Masters in emphatic fashion. Having already qualified for the ATP Nitto Finals, Medvedev won all his three round-robin matches and defeated Rafael Nadal in a nail-biting semifinal.

The crowning moment came when Medvedev out-battled Dominic Thiem in an epic final to win the biggest tournament of the career.

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Kshitij Tayal

515 articles

Kshitij Tayal is a tennis author at EssentiallySports. Having played district-level tennis competitions, Kshitij is also a tenured journalist of the sport with over four years of experience. At EssentiallySports, he pens down some thought-provoking pieces on players and tournaments across the ATP and WTA.

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