Marathon man Daniil Medvedev hopes experience can be his trump card against Jannik Sinner in the Australian Open final.
Sinner is through to his first grand-slam showpiece after stunning Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals while this will be a sixth shot at a major trophy for Medvedev.
The Russian won his only title at the US Open in 2021, losing twice more in New York and twice here, in 2021 and 2022, with all his finals so far pitting him against either Djokovic or Rafael Nadal.
The final is set 🏁
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In Melbourne two years ago, Medvedev led Nadal by two sets to love only to lose in five, but that has been his trick this year, with the third seed coming from two sets down to beat Emil Ruusuvuori in the second round and Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals.
He also played a five-setter against Hubert Hurkacz in the last eight and has spent more than 20 hours on court in his six matches, nearly six hours longer than Sinner, whose only dropped set came against Djokovic.
The Italian has carried his superb form from the end of last season into 2024 but a first slam final always presents its own challenges, and Medvedev said: “I hope it gives (me an advantage), because I hope to have some advantage.
“Physical advantage I probably don’t have. Tennis advantage, let’s see. But three last times he got me. So I hope that this experience can help me.
“First final, I think it’s always different for everyone. I’m sure some guys went out in the first final and felt so good they just managed to win it. Some would go and it would be tough mentally and they would lose.
“I have no idea how Jannik is going to be, but I have this experience. I will try my best. I will fight for my life, and let’s see who wins.”
Medvedev is one of the quirkiest characters on tour and he has had a love-hate relationship with crowds around the world, but a personal vow to behave better on court seems to be paying dividends.
“Mentally 100 per cent I’m stronger than I was before this tournament because now I know that I’m capable of some things maybe I thought I’m not, because before I didn’t do anything like this to get to the final,” said the 27-year-old.
His long-time coach Gilles Cervara, who has been known to walk out of matches over his charge’s behaviour, has seen it all.
“I know that, no matter what, he’s searching for a solution all the time,” said Cervara. “Also he wants to win so much. So both of these parts makes me feel that he still has a chance in any situation.
“Sometimes when I ask him some questions about his game on court, about what he put his concentration into or, when he misses, what he could do, and the answer he gives me makes me feel like, ‘Wow, I’m talking to the number three in the world, he was number one, he won a grand slam, and I have the feeling that I’m talking to a teenager’.”
This will be a 10th meeting between Medvedev and Sinner, with the Russian winning the first six but then losing three times in a row late last season, when Sinner won titles in Beijing and Vienna, reached the final of the ATP Finals and led Italy to the Davis Cup.
Hailing from the north of the country, the 22-year-old was a champion skier as a child before committing to tennis.
His huge groundstrokes marked him out as a special talent but it is since switching to the coaching team of Simone Vagnozzi and renowned Australian Darren Cahill in 2022 that he has climbed to the top of the game.
Cahill, who has previously worked with the likes of Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and Simona Halep, said of Sinner: “He’s got the qualities I believe that a lot of the great champions in the game have, but you’ve got to start winning to let that come to fruition.
“So he’s making little steps. He had a good finish to the year last year. He gained a lot of belief from what he was able to do.”