LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Daniil Medvedev, who will contest his first tournament as world number one at the Indian Wells ATP Masters, said he’s matured since his loss to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final.
In the wake of his crushing loss to the Spanish star in Melbourne – where Nadal rallied from two sets down to win a record 21st Grand Slam title – Medvedev complained about “disrespectful” fans.
But he said on Wednesday at Indian Wells that those comments – which came after he was fined USD12,000 for an outburst at the chair umpire in his semi-final win over Stefanos Tsitsipas – were made in the heat of the disappointing moment.
“It made me mature, the Australian Open,” the 26-year-old said. “I understood I had a lot to work on myself.”
Medvedev officially ascended to world number one on February 28 – days after his rise was assured when Novak Djokovic fell in the quarter-finals at Dubai.
Playing in the Mexico Open at Acapulco at the time, Medvedev was unable to celebrate the achievement with a title, stopped once again by Nadal in the championship match.
The two could meet again in the semi-finals at Indian Wells, where Djokovic is absent due to United States (US) government COVID-19 travel regulations.
Medvedev acknowledged that there was “a lot of pressure” in playing as the world’s top-ranked player “but at the same time a lot of motivation”, he said.
While he’ll have number one beside his name, he won’t have the Russian flag, after tennis authorities ruled that Russian and Belarusian players can’t compete under the names or flags of their countries in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I want to play tennis, play in different countries – I want to promote my sport,” Medvedev said. Right now the situation is that’s the only way I can play, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
He also reiterated his desire for peace as fighting raged for a 15th day in Ukraine.
“My message is always the same – I want peace in all of the world,” Medvedev said. “I think every tennis player is going to say the same.”
The conflict is certain to cast its shadow over Indian Wells, where a dozen players from Russia and four from Belarus are entered along with four from Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, who made it to the final in Lyon last Sunday a week after escaping Russian bomb attacks in her home city of Odessa, took the court on Wednesday for a first-round match against France’s Caroline Garcia draped in a Ukrainian flag.
But she fell at the first hurdle, saving two match points in the second set tiebreaker before succumbing 6-4, 6-7 (8/10), 7-5.
Garcia advanced to a second-round meeting with 11th-seeded US Open champion Emma Raducanu.
Raducanu will be playing her first match since a hip injury forced her to retire from her first round match at Guadalajara last month.
The 32 seeded players in both the men’s and women’s draws enjoy first-round byes, but the women’s first round has still thrown up a blockbuster between four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka and former major winner Sloane Stephens.
Both are unseeded, Osaka having dropped out of the top 80 in the world after falling in the third round of her Australian Open title defense.
She’s now ranked 78th in the world while Stephens, who ended a four-year title drought with a win at Guadalajara, is ranked 38th.
Among other first-round matches on Wednesday, Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina beat France’s Clara Burel 6-3, 6-2, Japan’s Misaki Doi rallied to beat Anastasia Potapova 0-6, 6-4, 6-3, Australian Ajla Tomljanovic beat American Hailey Baptiste 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 and China’s Zheng Qinwen beat 2009 champion Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-2.