If there’s been one player who has stood out from the pack this year, it most certainly is Daniil Medvedev. He’s made the most tournament finals than any male singles player, winning two of them: at Cincinnati just prior to the US Open, and in Sofia earlier this year.
Both wins were on hard courts. The last three hard court tournaments had the same name in each final, the provocative player from Russia: Washington, DC, Canada, and the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. The crowds in New York may not like him, but the 23-year-old Medvedev is the future of tennis.
The Guardian’s columnist Marina Hyde wrote “the tennis bad boy is absolutely my favorite type of alleged bad boy,” anointing Medvedev as its new poster child, with his trying-to-be-subtle-by-not-being-subtle middle finger response to the angry NY crowd during his run at the US Open.
Chris Evert (among others) said “he is the bad boy of tennis” while commentating, while Brad Gilbert labeled him a “skinny wrestler villain” during his win over Feliciano Lopez. Daniil Medvedev has been drinking in all the bad vibes at Flushing Meadows, thriving in his infamous spotlight.
“Thank you all, guys, because your energy tonight gave me the win. If you weren’t here, I probably would lose the match,” said Medvedev, confrontationally, after the Lopez match. “I want all of you to know, when you sleep tonight, I won because of you.
Guys, continue to give me this energy,” he continued, unphased by the chorus of boos. “You’re the best,” he mocked. We’ve become so used to the elegance and gracious behavior from Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and as of late, Novak Djokovic, that this new trend is a bit shocking.
Nick Kyrgios seemed to be soloist in the rude genre, but it looks like he’s recruited a new member of his gang, and he’s likely to grow some ranks. Perhaps it’s a sign of a massive change in tennis, with Federer the latest of the Big 3 to bow out of the US Open.
The next generation of players have been playing in the shadows of the Big 3 for so long, that perhaps it will take a shock factor to wake up the next phase of tennis players. If the trend continues, it will likely make us all look back even more wistfully to the time of the Big 3, which I consider the Golden Age of Tennis.
Still, someone needs to take over the mantle of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic. Medvedev’s made six ATP finals, won two titles, and several semis this year. His run at the US Open has been—like much of the year for him—meteoric.
He will already rise to world No. 4 when the new rankings come out. Like it or not, Daniil Medvedev will be the new face of men’s tennis. Brace yourself: it's going to be a bumpy ride.