There’s always something for Daniil Medvedev to pick at. This time, after reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals with an outrageous 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (4-7), 7-5 win over American Maxime Cressy it was the fact that he was put on Margaret Court Arena instead of Rod Laver - Australia’s version of Centre Court.
"I don't know what I should do to play on centre courts in Slams," he said.
"I won the last Grand Slam, I'm [the] highest seed here. To play against Maxime would be easier on Rod Laver, more space."
The Russian is used to speaking his mind and ruffling a few feathers and he has drawn the ire of Australians several times during this tournament so far. His win over Nick Krygios annoyed the home crowd for all the obvious reasons, but his on-court interview afterwards drew their annoyance further.
“That’s the only choice when you get booed between first and second serve, it isn’t easy, but you just have to stay calm and win the match,” was met with a chorus of boos before Medvedev interjected - “Guys, show some respect for Jim Courier, he won here.”
The crowd can boo all they want, but Medvedev is one hundred percent authentic. Against Cressy he showed his frustration as he wasted eight break points and then shouted “this is so boring!” on the baseline. Sure, perhaps that doesn’t follow the usual tennis etiquette, but it does bring a bit of a personality to the sport, even if that personality can sometimes rub a crowd up the wrong way.
Yet tennis has been ruled by ‘sensible’ players for too long. Roger Federer is the squeaky clean sportsman. If you could design the perfect tennis player, you would likely come up with the Swiss ace. Supremely talented, good-looking and utterly lovable, the world of sport embraced Federer as one of their own, while Rafa Nadal was his perfect rival.
Physically the complete opposite of Federer, but still likeable, Nadal provided stiff competition and perhaps the pair played out the greatest match of the lot, the 2008 Wimbledon final. Then along came Novak Djokovic, who disrupted the pair with his ability but was fairly monotonous until his stance on the coronavirus vaccine caused so much chaos and meant that he couldn’t defend his Australian Open crown this month.
Nick Krygios has for the past few years been the joker in the pack, but he has perhaps leant too much towards that side of his personality, and has failed to seriously challenge for any of the major titles. Which is where Medvedev fills the void. He isn’t really a ‘bad guy’ at all, far from it, but he does have an edge that makes him so watchable. Even when he is playing badly, which is so rare in this day and age, he will always provide a ‘did you see that?’ moment, either on or off the court.
If he wins in Melbourne he will be crowned the new number one, as Djokovic’s absence is set to end a remarkable stint that has seen him as world number one since February 2020. Medvedev is here to shake things up, and a win Down Under would be a landmark moment for the sport.