The first Grand Slam of 2020 is about to get underway. All the players are returning to the tour refreshed and looking to start the year well. One of those players, Daniil Medvedev, had a great 2019 and is now hoping to win his first ever major.
A great year to build on
Last year started well for Medvedev. He had showed signs of promise in 2018 by winning events in Tokyo, Winston-Salem and Sydney, but it was more about him settling into the ATP and getting accustomed to coming up against elite players week in, week out. While the start of 2019 wasn’t the greatest for the 23-year-old Russian, he really came into form towards the end of the year and even came close to winning his maiden Grand Slam.
A fourth-round finish at the 2019 Australian Open seemed to set the year up well for Medvedev but he dropped away, as the shift in court surfaces to clay and grass didn’t really play to his strengths. After being eliminated in the first round at the French Open and then the third round at Wimbledon. These performances might not look great on face value, but if you look at the lower ranking tour events, Medvedev has still shown signs of improvement from last year – he went 8-5 on clay in total and got to the semi-final of the Masters in Monte Carlo and then the final in Barcelona the following week.
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Improvement across multiple surface is important for any tennis player, but it was the move back to hard courts in August that really showed what Medvedev was capable of and where he took his performances to the next level. Outside of Grand Slam events, the ATP Masters 1000 Series are the most prestigious and valuable events to players – Daniil Medvedev won two of them in 2019. His success at the ATP Masters 1000 Cincinnati and ATP Masters 1000 Shanghai catapulted Medvedev up the ATP rankings and would have filled him with confidence for the remainder of the season.
Things nearly got even better for Medvedev when he got to the final of the US Open in September. However, he lost out in a five set thriller to Rafael Nadal after losing the first two sets 7-5, 6-3 then winning the next two 7-5 and 6-4 only to lose the last set 6-4. Whether that knocked Medvedev’s confidence or he suffered from fatigue at the final event of the season remains to be seen but he will be disappointed to have lost all three of his matches at the ATP Tour Finals in November.
Analysing Medvedev’s stats
While the jump from 16th in the world to World Number 4 shows just how well Medvedev played last year, a close look at his statistics from the ATP Tour back up the claim that he is up there with the best in the world at the moment.
Throughout 2019, Medvedev won 73% of his tour matches. While winning 67% of his service points isn’t overly impressive (he ranks 14th for this metric in the ATP), it provides a good base to build on. The 40.3% of return points won (fifth highest) in the ATP indicate that Medvedev is a very well-rounded player who doesn’t have to rely on one part of his game to win him matches.
"It was the move back to hard courts in August that really showed what Medvedev was capable of and where he took his performances to the next level".
The two aforementioned metrics are often combined by tennis analysts and sharp tennis bettors to provide an indication of what kind of level a player is at (instead of just looking at results or world ranking). The 107.3% combined serve and return points won certainly is at the elite level of men’s tennis and it actually puts Daniil Medvedev fourth on the ATP Tour behind only Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
As previously mentioned, Medvedev far from disgraced himself on clay this season but his stats do suggest he performs better in quicker conditions.
Why the court is key
It’s clear from even basic level analysis that Medvedev is a hard court player. As an elite tennis player, he is expected to perform well across multiple surfaces and while he can compete on clay and grass, it’s the hard court where he poses the biggest threat to his opposition.
The heat is always the first thing that people think about with the Australian Open. Considering it’s the hottest Grand Slam tournament this isn’t really a surprise, but it’s more the fluctuation in whether that matters.
The hotter it gets, the faster the balls will move through the air but the fact that it can go from beaming sun and 40°C to showering rain and 15°C in 24 hours can have a massive impact on how certain players perform. Once the temperature drops, the balls get heavier and the play slows right down.
The court itself is also probably the fastest court of all the events on the entire tour. Hard courts are built up of layers of rubber and cement with a final layer of sand and paint. The more sand in the paint, the rougher the surface and the slower it plays - Melbourne Park uses very little sand, hence the fast surface.
Because Medvedev tends to play flat stokes, he will benefit from the ball skidding through off the service, while those that like to use a lot of spin (like Rafael Nadal) will struggle a bit as the ball won’t kick up. The surface also plays to the strengths of the big servers, but Medvedev does really well with returning the ball and can actually use his opponents big serve to cause them problems if he keeps it in play.
What do the betting markets tell us?
The odds are very much in line with the analysis from this article - Daniil Medvedev is a very good tennis player and is more than capable of challenging the elite. That’s why he is the third favourite to win the 2020 Australian Open at odds of 7.530*. This equates to a 13.3% chance, with only Novak Djokovic (2.20 or 45.5%) and Rafael Nadal (5.94 or 16.8%) having been given a better chance of winning the first Grand Slam of the year.
Interestingly, the market was quick to see the potential value in Medvedev’s odds. He was initially listed at 9.30 and is now one of the biggest movers in the outright odds for the Men’s 2020 Australian Open winner market. When you consider the Russian has taken around 15% of the total bets with over 25 options for bettors to choose from, it’s easy to see why Pinnacle has had to react and move the odds.