Saturday, October 9, 2021 - Daniil Medvedev reacts after defeating Mackenzie McDonald on day 6 of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open)
It didn’t take long for Daniil Medvedev’s trophy-clinching celebration at the US Open to become the stuff of legend.
After stopping top-ranked Novak Djokovic one match shy of history, making good on his third appearance in a major final, the Muscovite dropped lifeless to the Ashe Stadium cement, a tankless goldfish on the verge of the afterlife. It was ode-to-FIFA, gamer-centric merrymaking at its finest.
Medvedev’s fish-out-of-water mimicry was as close as it comes to him looking helpless on a tennis court these days. Since his summer splash of 2019, when he reeled off six straight finals, highlighted by ATP Masters 1000 titles in Cincinnati and Shanghai, and a run to his first Grand Slam final in New York, he’s been a mainstay at the top of the sport. Earlier this year, he reached the title tilt at the Australian Open. In March, he became the first man not named Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or Murray to reach No. 2 in the rankings since 2005.
The 25-year-old arrived in the Southern California desert seeking his fifth title of the year, not to mention team triumphs at both the ATP Cup in Melbourne and Laver Cup in Boston. He’s 18-1 in North America in his past five tournaments, having won his fourth career ATP Masters 1000 title in Toronto. Overall, he’s 50-10 on the year.
Round of 16 opponent Grigor Dimitrov, seeded No. 23, would love nothing more than to hook Medvedev on Wednesday in Stadium 1. The Bulgarian is 1-3 against the Russian, falling in their most recent encounter this summer in the same round in Cincinnati, 3 and 3. His lone win against Medvedev came in the Queen’s Club quarters (6-3, 3-6, 6-3) back in 2017.
Dimitrov, who reached a career-high No. 3 in 2017, has enjoyed a resurgent 2021. He reached the quarterfinals in his first three events of the year, in Melbourne (Murray River Open), the Australian Open and Acapulco. He reached the semifinals in his BNP Paribas Open warm-up in San Diego, and is into a career-best fourth-round showing in Indian Wells. The 30-year-old will need to summon his vintage form if he’s going to get past Medvedev.
And wouldn’t that be some fish story?