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February 18- March 2, 2024
Dubai Duty Free tennis stadium
February 18- March 2, 2024
Dubai Duty Free tennis stadium
February 17, 2024

Daniil Medvedev: Always ready for a challenge

Last year’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winner shares his thoughts on friendship, competition and potential plans for life after the tennis

by Barry Wood

Once you’ve experienced the thrill of intense competition it’s a tough thing to give up. The 2023 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winner Daniil Medvedev had an interesting answer when asked last season what he would turn his hand to once his playing days are over.

Many players take up coaching, others offer their experience and knowledge as a commentator, some do both. Medvedev might do that, but he certainly has something else in mind, too.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I will have to try many things after my career to see what I like because I want to do something I like. I think commentator could be something I can try. I don’t know if I’m going to like it. If I’m not going to like it, I’m going to say, ‘okay, I don’t do it’. Same about coaching. I don’t know if I could be a good coach, but I would like to try it one day.

“But what I for sure will try to do, depends how my life goes, but I will try to be an amateur racing driver. That’s my dream. For sure I cannot go professional anywhere. But something like Ferrari Challenge or whatever, where you pay money and you race throughout the whole year on the best tracks of the world, this I’m going to do with some of my friends.”

Daniil Medvedev

The day to choose is surely a long way off, though. He’s only 28 and there are still a lot of balls to hit over the net. But how long will he continue to chase titles? Will he emulate players like Roger Federer, who didn’t retire until he was 41? Surely impossible. But how about Novak Djokovic, who is now 36 and still the one to beat? Can he keep going until then?

“I think it’s possible,” said Medvedev. “But it definitely depends on my body, and depends on my family. If at one moment, imagine my family tells me, ‘Look, we want you’, my children or my wife says, ‘we want you to be more at home’, maybe I’m going to say, ‘I’m going to just play Grand Slams’. If it doesn’t work out, you drop in the rankings and then you finish your career.

“It depends on many things. You can get injured, get out of the top hundred, not be able to come back. But in general I would say I want to be like this. I want to say at 36 years old I’ll be playing at the best level of tennis possible. But it depends on many, many different aspects. I’m going to try my best to be able to do it.”

It’s easier to be on the ATP Tour when you enjoy the company that you’re with. That’s often difficult when you are surrounded by rivals. Same as in many jobs, I suppose.

There’s rivalry and competition everywhere, but on the ATP Tour it’s intense. Medvedev is perhaps luckier than many, as he has a strong and binding friendship with the player he defeated in the 2023 Dubai final, Andrey Rublev.

Daniil Medvedev & Andrey Rublev

“I think we’re really close friends,” he said. “I think we have a great relationship. Even if on the court we’re big competitors, so I do think [it’s only] one match, I say a fight, we can [still] talk or something like this. I think nothing is going to come between us to separate us in real life.

“We’re really close. I mean, we share a lot of, let’s call it interests and stuff like this. It’s great to have someone like this on tour because sometimes [it] can be not easy. You travel, travel, travel. To have a friend like this is great.”

Read More: Daniil Medvedev beats Andrey Rublev to claim the 2023 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

And Rublev even has a special place in his family as he is the godfather for Medvedev’s daughter, Alisa. Was that an easy decision to make?

“To be honest, yes,” he said. “Because as I say, we’re really close. I don’t like to, let’s say, label ‘best friend’ because I would say I have a lot of best friends, I have a lot of good friends. But we are very close. He’s very kind. He’s kind of a little bit into, how we can call it, he’s religious, so that’s important to be a godfather. So it was kind of an easy decision, yeah.”

Medvedev is highly successful and so now he is often the hunted rather than the hunter. That’s good, isn’t it? Or maybe not, because everyone sees him as a target, knowing they could make a name for themselves if they beat him.

Being hunted was never more true than at last month’s Australian Open, when Emil Ruusuvuori made his bid for glory in the second round. His challenge lasted for four hours and 23 minutes, finishing at around 3:30am after Medvedev came from two sets down to win a fiveset thriller.

“I always feel like it’s better to be the hunter,” said Medvedev. “[As the hunted] maybe you can get some guys that are going to be like, ‘Wow, I’m going to play my best match of my life against him’. And this could happen, and that’s very frustrating at times. Because [they win and] then you watch their next match and you’re like, ‘Why didn’t you play like that against me’?

“But if you are the hunter it means that you’re on top of the game, and that’s always the best. Because it’s always better to be consistent and try to win a lot of tournaments than have a couple of good wins against top players here and there, but not do this [become a champion].”

It is natural that he will face many battles to come, tough challenges like he faced in Melbourne last month. But because he has earned the right to be recognised as the hunted, the one to beat, it means that he also has the skills to ensure that the hunted wins, most of the time—even if he plays until he’s 36.

This feature was initially published in the 2024 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Official Program.

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