He might be basking in the joy of the biggest win of his career, but Daniil Medvedev’s thoughts have already turned to the first grand slam of 2021.
It’s a sign of the times, though, that he’s thinking more about his health than winning a debut slam, given the way the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to impact international travel.
Medvedev, the newly crowned ATP Finals champion, tells CNN Sport he is “really uncertain” about his Australian Open plans.
Players will not be allowed to arrive in Australia any earlier than January 1, with the latest coronavirus regulations in Victoria — the state in which the Australian Open is held — outlining that any new arrivals would still need to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
With the tournament currently scheduled to begin on January 18, that would leave players very little time to prepare physically after being confined to a hotel room for two weeks.
“I’m going to go to Australia when we can to avoid any circumstances that would change your mind about competing there,” Medvedev told CNN’s Christina Macfarlane.
“If, for instance, you weren’t able to compete or to train during quarantine just ahead of the tournament, I don’t think the tournament is going to happen.
“[I’m] not complaining that it’s boring or something like this, it’s just that going out from the room after 14 days of not doing anything and [then] playing five sets right away, I think would be really dangerous for the health of any sportsman.
“At least from what was said before, we would be able to practice on tennis courts and practice physically, which is really important. I don’t think it’s going to be possible for anybody to go there [if they] will need to stay in the room for 14 days.”
Dan Andrews, the Victorian Premier, said this weekend he was “very confident” the Australian Open would take place “in the early part of next year,” but admitted the exact dates were still to be confirmed.
There had been reports the tournament could be pushed back as far as February or March, but organizers said in a statement to Reuters that this was “pure speculation.”
Australian Open organizers and the ATP did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Whenever the Australian Open does eventually go ahead, Medvedev will rightly see himself as one of the favorites to lift the trophy.
From November 2019 to October 2020, the Russian failed to beat a single top 10 player. In the last four weeks, which saw him win the Paris Masters as well the ATP Finals, Medvedev has beaten seven.
“I actually didn’t know this this information, so it’s funny to hear,” Medvedev said. “I know that I’m capable of playing great tennis and I didn’t know that I didn’t beat any top 10 player for such a long time … I was surprised!
“But it’s great that these two tournaments that I won, everything came together. Some great matches, great opponents. I mean, in the Masters you only play top 10 opponents, you have no choice. There is no easy draw here. So it’s just really great. I’m happy about this.
“Tennis is a game with, I would say, a lot of mentality and confidence involved. Sometimes you feel that you cannot miss a shot. So then you start thinking: ‘OK, do I go down the line or cross?’ And that’s the only thing you think about. And when you are in doubt, when you’re not playing so well, that’s when you start to think more.”
Still only 24 years old, Medvedev is part of the ‘Next Gen’ group of stars that were supposed to end the hegemony of the current “Big Three” of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
However, with none of that group able to win a grand slam in the presence of at least one of the “Big Three” — Djokovic was disqualified in the recent US Open won by Dominic Thiem — their credentials on the biggest stage continue to be questioned.
Medvedev became the first man in history to beat the top three seeds en route to the ATP Finals title, something he believes will stand him in good stead when trying to win his maiden grand slam at the Australian Open.
“That is of course a goal for every tennis player, to win a grand slam,” he said. “I think it’s one of the biggest achievements you can have in tennis. Dominic got it this year, I cannot imagine how happy for this one.
“But I always say that I work my best in practice, on the tennis court when I play matches, when I play against other players practicing or doing physical exercises, improving my physique, and that’s how the victories can come.
“So hopefully I can have some big moments in my career, including a victory in a Grand Slam, but we never know how it’s going to go — and of course, victories against the three biggest players in the world right now helps a lot.”