Winning breeds confidence and 12 months ago, one star was burning brightest of all. Daniil Medvedev, who had swapped sweets and croissants for a better diet to match his dedication and professionalism on the court, went on a tear.
After Nick Kyrgios narrowly beat him 7-6(8), 7-6(4) in the 2019 Citi Open final, the Russian travelled to Montreal, for arguably the pivotal moment of his career, when years of training and repetition came together — and ultimately propelled him on a path for the Top 5 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
His 2019 Coupe Rogers performances were all the more remarkable when you consider that Medvedev had had to qualify the year before to play in Toronto, where he lost to Alexander Zverev in the 2018 third round of the main draw. In the build-up to Montreal, one year on, Medvedev had reached three ATP Tour finals in 2019 and earned a career total of four Top 10 scalps, including back-to-back victories, a few months earlier, over No. 8-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
Now, returning to Canadian soil, the 23-year-old was the eighth seed. And, throughout the week, he was not just beating, but dominating great players, having found his rhythm and the right tactics, forged in partnership with his coach Gilles Cervara. Medvedev did not lose more than three games per set in his first three matches in Montreal. He beat No. 4 Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-1 in the quarter-finals and earned a 6-1, 7-6(6) semi-final victory over fellow Russian Karen Khachanov, then ranked No. 8, took the player into unchartered territory.
While Rafael Nadal breezed past Medvedev 6-3, 6-0 in his first ATP Masters 1000 final, his education continued. And Medvedev has never looked back.
“It’s one of two best tournaments I’ve played in my life,” said Medvedev, of Montreal last year. “One was basically of course Tokyo, the only ATP 500 I won at this moment. Of course, to be in the final of a Masters 1000, I mean, it’s an amazing achievement for me at this moment… Of course, I always say this: if you don’t win the tournament, you are always disappointed. Even if you lose in a final of a Grand Slam, you will be disappointed.”
With a booming serve, one of the flattest backhands and most unorthodox games on the ATP Tour, Medvedev was not downcast. The following week, he kept putting the ball back, continued to frustrate opponents and subsequently captured the Western & Southern Open crown, overcoming Djokovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, for the second time, in the semi-finals, and David Goffin 7-6(3), 6-4 for the biggest trophy of his career.
Immediately touted as a favourite for the US Open, Medvedev, who’d been the World No. 16 on 14 January, fell, narrowly, one step short in the final. Hours after an outstanding campaign had ended with a five-set loss to Nadal, Medvedev rose to a career-high No. 4 on 9 September. He was the first player to accrue 50 match wins on the 2019 season.
“Of course, deep inside of me, I understand that what I’ve done these four weeks is amazing, even comparing to what I’ve done before,” said Medvedev. “I don’t want to stop. I will always work to be better. I will try to do my best every day.”
Memories of Medvedev winning 20 out of 23 matches and reaching four straight finals on North American hard courts — only the third player to do so after Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi — remain vivid, ahead of the ATP Tour’s return this month.
While Medvedev would go onto lift two more trophies, the St. Petersburg Open (d. Coric) and the Rolex Shanghai Masters (d. Zverev), to extend his post-2019 Wimbledon streak to 29-3 and cement his place inside the Top 10, it was his week in Montreal that was pivotal in his rise to consistent, peak performance.