If there’s a tennis equivalent of #hotgirlsummer, Daniil Medvedev is living it right now. After reaching the finals of the Citi Open and the Rogers Cup, he managed one step further in winning the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati on Sunday.
While Medvedev defeated David Goffin of Belgium to claim the title, surely the signature match of his summer run was his semifinal win against Novak Djokovic on Satuday. There as a moment in the second set against Djokovic where it looked like Djokovic was going to cut through the 24 year old Russian in Djokovic’s typical buzzsaw fashion. And, for many players on the tour, the Djokovic momentum after winning the first set would have been enough to make the second a foregone conclusion. But, perhaps it is the fact that he is a relative newcomer, with little of the scar tissue that more veteran players have from facing and losing against the Big Three, that gave him the freedom to start hitting out at that point. Or maybe it’s the fact that he took Djokovic to four sets at the Australian Open earlier this year and actually defeated him in Monte Carlo. But, whatever the reason, he managed to do what few others have done this season — get past an in-form Djokovic in three sets.
That said, Medvedev could not expect the same type of match in today’s final. After all, Goffin poses almost the opposite challenge as Djokovic. While Djokovic tends to suffocate with his court coverage an uncanny ability to hit winners from impossible defensive positions, Goffin is a more traditional counterpuncher, playing consistently with relatively few errors, and requiring Medvedev to create his own momentum.
And, at the outset, that is exactly what Medvedev did — taking a one break lead early in the first set, only to have Goffin even the set at 4-4, but Medvedev managed to come out in front, taking the first set in a tiebreak. Goffin was unable to gain much of a foothold in the second set, where Medvedev got an early break and hung on to serve it out, taking the title 7-6, 6-4.
While the WTA tour has had its share of new winners, Sunday’s Cincinnati final between Daniil Medvedev and David Goffin was an unusual occurence on the ATP tour — a Masters 1000 final without a member of the Big Three taking part, giving it an almost blank slate sort of feel. For a tour where the fans loyalties run deep and sometimes toxic, a final with new protagonists was a breath of fresh air. With the dust barely settled on the last major tune up for the US Open, the question remains — when will one of these young players break through at a Major. While there’s no way of knowing for sure, Daniil Medvedev’s run in Cincinnati shows that it may be sooner than we think.