Daniil Medvedev has always been open about his testy relationship with clay. So how did he rise to become an ATP Masters 1000 champion on the surface?
It was Medvedev’s first ATP Tour title on clay at any level, let alone at a Masters 1000. Even given his solid form on European clay courts prior to Rome, the former World No. 1 expressed some disbelief at his title run in Italy and admitted the unexpected nature of his triumph made it one of his best yet.
“In a way [this is my] number one [success], just because it’s the first one on clay and it’s unbelievable,” said Medvedev in his post-match press conference. “I would never have thought I would be able to make this. Then [I] have to be honest, a Grand Slam is always bigger. [The 2021] US Open is always number one there.
“This one is special because I didn’t think it was going to be able to happen, [that I was] 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 way I played, I’m really happy. Happy to have this trophy back home in some time.”
Medvedev Clinches First Clay-Court Crown, Triumphs In Rome
Medvedev’s deep groundstrokes have been a key feature of his clay-court development. His baseline retrieving has been the basis for his hard-court success (18 of his 20 tour-level titles have come on the surface), and he cited a change of strings at the start of the 2023 season as a reason why he has been able to replicate his form on the clay this year.
“Straightaway in Australia [with the new strings] actually, where I lost, with my coach we were like, ‘Wow, I have the easy depth on the ball, which is amazing,” said Medvedev.
“In Australia, [it] didn’t work. I was 100 per cent doubting myself. Should I go back to the old ones, I was playing good with them? I said no, let’s try more. Now it’s unbelievable.”
Medvedev’s title run was his fifth of a standout 2023 season, including Masters 1000 crowns in Miami and Rome. The 20-time tour-level titlist believes his experience playing under championship-match pressure at Masters 1000 events helped him keep his cool at tough moments against Rune.
“For sure every time you play a big final, it’s an experience,” said Medvedev. “It’s an experience for the next one. For example, both Miami and here, I felt like the start was so-so, then I managed to get into the match more and more and play better and better.
“When I played my first [ATP Masters 1000 final, in Montreal in 2019], it was against Rafa [Nadal]. I got destroyed. I started bad, as I kind of started these matches, then I was only playing worse and worse. The next one I managed to win against Goffin [in Cincinnati in 2019]. It was a tight match from both of us. We knew it’s going to be first one for us.
“With experience, I managed to do better in this moment, so maybe that helped. But then in general terms, after Miami, I was feeling confident, good.”