“Those days lost chasing the wind, asking for a kiss and wanting another hundred“, Sang Fabrizio De André. After all, Daniil Medvedev And Alexander Zverev Aren’t they chasing the wind, sliding more and more sand into the hourglass, yearning for records and firsts but not getting enough of their game or physique? Both arrived at the Masters 1000 in Miami this year with ambitions of number 1: the Russian was enough for the semifinal, while the German needed the victory of the tournament, clearly hoping for a premature exit of Medvedev (so he certainly was not the full master of his destiny, but he didn’t do everything he had to do either). Moral of the story: both out in the quarterfinals, the number 2 in the world under the aces and slices of HurkaczSascha succumbing to the blows of the indefatigable Ruud. Two defeats, like the bad times they are both going through, different yet damn similar.
The problems, for Daniil Medvedev, seem to have started on the day that should have been the best of his career: Thursday 24 February, Jiry Vesely beats Novak Djokovic and gives the Russian the first position in the ranking, the first who is not Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or Murray since Andy Roddick. It was supposed to be the beginning of his reign, of the much desired dominion, but at the moment it is certainly not so: defeat with Nadal in the semifinal in Acapulco in the first tournament played by n.1 in pectore, out in the third round in Indian Wells against Monfils and consequent loss of first place after a couple of weeks, until the opportunity vanished yesterday against Hurkacz. What is the cause of this disastrous, and at least unexpected, collapse? To the pressure, to the fear of not being up to it? To the famous solitude of prime numbers? Or was Daniil simply not ready to be # 1? Each question has its validity, but it is perhaps another that we really should ask ourselves: if not now, when? The years increase, and they pass for everyone, the new generation (Alcaraz in primis) are arriving more and more insistent, and the “terrible old men” are still there for the spring on the red (certainly not the moment of the season preferred by Medvedev): all this makes yesterday’s defeat even more serious, because such tempting opportunities, with tables full of gaps and problems even beyond tennis (see Djokovic) and physical (Nadal) do not happen often.
In a press conference certainly conditioned by a certain bitterness, in addition to the usual questions about the match and the problems that characterized the final, more thorny arguments were raised with Medvedev, such as the consequences of the comeback suffered in Australia: “I think the first tournament in Acapulco was not easy in terms of feeling, like everything after what happened in Australia, which I think had a bit of an impact on Indian Wells, as if I was not feeling in the right direction in my tennis. . And at the same time I was trying to find this direction. Here, as I said, I am back to feeling like I have found the right direction in which I can win tournaments and I can win many games against tough opponents. But then, yes, once again, I met Hubert who is a great player. I should go back to my games against him, because I’ve never done that. But I have a feeling, playing against him, that he doesn’t play against other players like that. Against me, he is never wrong. Prime of service always on line. He doesn’t always play like that, I don’t know why. So yeah i think like i said early tournaments weren’t easy but i’m in the right direction so that’s okay“.
The questions about how much the thought of being able to become # 1 had influenced came promptly, but Medvedev denied any influence of nerves and desires on his performance: “To be honest, it was more important to me in a way to win the game itself than to become number 1 by winning the game. I saw it more as a bonus. So I didn’t feel like I was tense about it. To be honest, I’ve played a lot of games where I’ve had pressure, different pressure, and it’s not like something new has happened today in terms of walking off the pitch and feeling crazy or anything like that. So I don’t think nerves were part of that“.
If Daniil’s crisis has its roots in the Australian Open final lost in a sensational way against Nadal, the speech concerning Alexander is even less clear. Zverev. Of course, it can be said that everything fell apart on the day of the crime against the judge in Acapulco, which curiously was the same day that Medvedev crowned number 1, Thursday 24 February. But until then the season was not going so rosy: defeat in three sets in the round of 16 in Australia against Shapovalov (and even there he could become number 1 by winning the tournament) and the final lost in Montpellier to Bublik, before losing. control and nearly attack the referee by smashing the racket against his chair in Mexico. Then the debut defeat with Brooksby in Indian Wells, and the crash against Ruud here in Florida, where he was also playing a good tournament up to the quarterfinals. He could win the tournament, become number 1, make this year the long-awaited year of consecration; especially in light of the excellent final of 2021. So what’s Sascha’s problem? Performance anxiety, not being able to stay focused, especially in the Grand Slams? Always feel challenged? Or simply the tendency of everyone to forget that he is a boy who is not even 25 years old and that he is among the best in the world since he was under 20, and to regularly give him too many expectations? Perhaps this is the most legitimate explanation, but youth is not eternal, and in always arriving second or third, to never win, there is a risk: losing that ardent desire for competition and supremacy and feeling amorphous, arrived, without the passion and love that are the life of a sportsman, especially for a sometimes fragile boy like Zverev.
So two different defeats but with the same flavor, like two distant but still specular crises, which ultimately crown only one winner: Novak Djokovicwho despite the problems related to the vaccine and the distance from the fields, without doing literally anything, will arrive at the season on clay still as number 1, also being able to count on opponents who today appear demoralized and far from their best, including a Nadal who will miss at least Monte Carlo and Barcelona for the problem in the rib. In just one day, a Norwegian soldier and a Polish embroiderer returned peaceful dreams to the Serbian, who if there is one he really needs to worry about is Carlos Alcaraz from Murcia, who is arriving far too sooner than he expected. Meanwhile, the hands, for Zverev and Medvedev, run inexorably towards the melancholy terrain of regret.