Daniil Medvedev has added some more intrigue in the lead-up to Roland-Garros as he’s thrown his name in as a legitimate contender with his victory this past week in Rome. It’s the first clay court tournament win of his career and for someone who has admittedly struggled on the surface in the past, he sure seems comfortable now.
In the final, Medvedev defeated 20-year-old rising star Holger Rune, 7-5, 7-5 and in the process got some payback for their meeting in the quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo last month where Rune prevailed in straight sets.
After his victory, Medvedev had the following to say when asked where this achievement ranks for him in his career thus far:
“In a way number one just because it’s the first one on clay and it’s unbelievable. I would never thought I would be able to make this…This one is special because I didn’t think it was going to be able to happen, I’m going to be able to make it. I still kind of don’t believe – not that I won it, but I played so well this week. I don’t believe it.”
The title is now the 20th of Medvedev’s career and amazingly all 20 of those tournament wins have come at different events which is a very unique accomplishment.
This week on Match Point Canada respected Tennis Channel broadcaster Gill Gross appeared as our guest and had the following to say about Medvedev’s chances on clay now that he’s won in Rome:
“I really think he’s right there…You look at the facts with Medvedev; we’ve seen him do it before. He’s won a Slam, multiple finals. He’s first in the race and he’s now won Rome. What more criteria are you looking for, for him to be considered a contender to win in unless you want to penalize him for his overall body of work the past 3-4 years which just hasn’t matched up with what he’s been able to do on hard courts.”
Medvedev started the year off slowly and fizzled early at the Aussie Open, but then gained momentum on the hard courts in February and March where he won three titles in succession, made the finals in Indian Wells and then won the title in Miami before transitioning to the clay. He now rises to No. 2 in the ATP rankings which will of course be beneficial for his placement in the French Open draw.
REST OF THE FIELD
While Medvedev capturing his first-ever clay court title is big news, the shock of the tournament in Rome came in the Round of 32 where World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz was taken-out by 135th-ranked Fabian Marozsan 6-3, 7-6(4).
It was the biggest win of his young career for the 23-year-old Marozsan, who afterwards had this to say:
“I am very happy. It was my dream last night. I tried to do something special, win a few games or a set and I’ve just beaten the world number one. I can’t believe it. Everything was perfect today.”
After tournament wins in Barcelona and Madrid, perhaps fatigue caught-up with the 20-year-old Alcaraz. Despite the loss, the Spaniard finishes his French Open prep with a 22-2 record on clay in 2023 and is considered by most to be the favourite in Paris this year.
Casper Ruud was considered by many to be a clay court threat this year given his past performance on the surface which includes a French Open finalist result just last year. While the 24-year-old won an ATP 250 title in Estoril back in early April, he then went an underwhelming 2-3 on the surface before rediscovering his game here in Rome where he made the semifinals. There he was defeated by Holger Rune, but nonetheless Ruud seems poised to do some damage at Roland-Garros which is exactly what we would have expected when the clay court season began.
Strong performances were also enjoyed from the usual suspects like Stefanos Tsitsipas who made the semifinals in the bottom half of the draw before falling to eventual champion Medvedev 7-5, 7-5.
Novak Djokovic meanwhile continues to search for his A-game on clay as he was defeated in the quarter-finals by Rune. Could his elbow still be causing him trouble or are things just not clicking yet for the two-time French Open champ on clay yet this year?
In the Doubles draw in Rome, the unseeded duo of Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski defeated Robin Haase and Botic van de Zandschulp 7-5, 6-1 for the championship. The pair tore through the draw and captured the title without dropping a set the entire tournament. While their clay court results had been somewhat inconsistent coming into Rome, the two are capable of playing some big-time doubles together as evidenced by their appearance in the Aussie Open Finals earlier this year.
Felix Auger-Aliassime continued to struggle so far this year on the red clay as he fell in his opening round match against Alexei Popyrin who defeated him 6-4. 4-6, 7-5. It’s now the second consecutive Masters 1000 where Felix has exited in his opening match.
Felix will now enter the ATP 250 event in Lyon to hopefully muster a little momentum as Paris approaches. A year ago, the Canadian made the round of 16 at the French Open before falling in an epic five-set battle against Rafael Nadal prior to the Spaniard’s 14th career title there.