By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – Daniil Medvedev long struggled on clay but the Russian completed his transformation into a French Open contender when he won the Rome Masters in his final preparation for this year’s Roland Garros where he will hope to claim his second Grand Slam title.
It would be ironic to see a player who hated the slow surface lift the Musketeers Cup on June 11, yet his steady improvement plus the absence of Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic’s far from ideal lead-up give the Russian a credible shot.
Medvedev, the 2021 U.S. Open champion, beat Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas on his way to the final in Rome against Holger Rune, who reached the last eight in Paris last year, and all signs point to him having a long run at Roland Garros.
“I always want to believe in myself and I always want to win the biggest tournaments in the world,” said Medvedev.
“But at the same time, I didn’t think I could win a Masters 1000 on clay in my career because usually I hated it, I hated playing on it. I didn’t feel good on it and nothing was working.
“Before this tournament already in Madrid and Monte Carlo I wasn’t feeling too bad. I thought, ‘OK, let’s continue’. Then when I came here I felt so good in practice and I told my coach, ‘I don’t know what is happening but I am feeling amazing’.”
Medvedev will therefore arrive in Paris having built an incredible momentum with his maiden claycourt title and he is likely to be one of the fickle Paris crowd’s favourites thanks to his sense of humour and, above all, fluent French.
He will also be seeded second ahead of Djokovic, meaning he will not be in the same half of the draw as Spain’s world number one Carlos Alcaraz.
“If I would be seeded third, I would definitely play one of Alcaraz or Novak if I am in the semi-finals. You definitely have one of them in your draw,” the world number two said.
“I guess it’s better to be number two and get the chance. Carlos and I will not play for sure before the final, and Novak maybe (there’s a) 50% chance he’s not in your (half of the) draw.
“At the same time, I haven’t been further than the quarters at Roland Garros.”
Medvedev, 27, failed to win a match at the French Open in his first four appearances but managed to reach the last eight in 2021 and the last 16 last year.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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