It’s noon in Acapulco and temperatures are soaring above 30 degrees Celsius. However, it is not enough to prevent Daniil Medvedev completing his first training session of the day. It does force him to take long breaks under a parasol though, and while he is still sweating off the exertion of his last rally, he picks up his mobile and stares at the screen. They are showing a Premier League match. Suddenly, he lets out a cry as someone scores a goal.
The Russian checks his phone every time he takes a break from training. And he will continue to do so throughout the day until he goes to bed. Why? Medvedev is an ardent Fantasy Premier League fan.
“Yeah, I really love it!” he said on Wednesday in Acapulco after reaching the quarter-finals of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC. “I play with my friends, I try to follow matches, pick the best team, so I really enjoy it, you know?”
Fantasy Premier League is a game in which users earn points if the players in their lineup play well each match day. Medvedev plays it for fun and to get away from the stress.
It may be quite useful to him this week as he is attracting plenty of attention as he prepares to take over as World No. 1, which he will do on Monday. Instead of worrying about the results of his friend Novak Djokovic in Dubai this week, Medvedev preferred to celebrate the points he earns in the Fantasy Premier League thanks to successful outings from Liverpool player Mohamed Salah, the captain of Daniil’s team.
“Sometimes I get angry when someone doesn’t score a penalty or something like that. But it’s fun. Really fun. Also, it makes me follow a sport I love, which is also great,” said last month’s Australian Open runner-up.
“For example, today there were three matches, I watched them all, and ‘triple captained’ my captain Salah, so I was super, super happy,” he added with a grin. Thanks to the Egyptian player’s goals against Leeds, Medvedev’s points were tripled and he had two reasons to celebrate after beating Pablo Andujar.
Sometimes it seems that Daniil is immune to the pressure others might crumble under with the No. 1 spot at stake. When he arrived in Mexico on 16 February in the afternoon, he relaxed in his villa eating snacks while watching a Champions League match.
“I really like Mexican food so far. I don’t know what else to tell you… it’s just really, really good,” said the 13-time ATP Tour champion. The beaches of Acapulco were also very much to his liking; he has been there several times to swim and surf with his wife Daria.
Considering the importance of this week in terms of his ATP Ranking, when Medvedev arrives at the tournament venue to compete and train, he doesn’t look the slightest bit stressed and his feet are certainly very much on the ground.
“I thought Daniil was someone who might think he was really special… because of his ranking and because he’s a possible No. 1 in the world. But after training I found him to be a very down-to-earth and humble person,” said Roberto Llamas, one of the five knock-up partners provided by the tournament.
Before his opener in Acapulco, Daniil practised for two hours with Mexican player Rodrigo Pacheco, the junior World No. 14 , and he took his role as a mentor very seriously. Giving advice to young talent has always been a strength of his.
“Medvedev was very nice to me. He gave me advice and told me to keep working hard, and if I went to his academy we could train again,” said the 16-year-old left-hander, who played in the Acapulco qualifiers.
It’s not that Daniil doesn’t care about the ATP Rankings battle: “Being No. 1 is no longer a dream like it was when I was younger,” he said following his first-round victory. “Now it’s a goal, and I’m working even harder to achieve it.”