Daniil Medvedev vs Stefanos Tsitsipas: Animosity bubbling for French Open quarter-final grudge match

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<p>Rivals Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev meet at the French Open on Tuesday</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

Rivals Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev meet at the French Open on Tuesday

(AFP via Getty Images)

As Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic edge towards an inevitable 58th career meeting in the semi-finals of the French Open, there will the usual effusive praise for each other’s game and tennis achievements.

In the other half of the men’s draw at Roland Garros, the situation could barely be contrasting, a sense of bubbling animosity between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev ahead of their quarter-final.

Both have talked up the respect for each other’s game – albeit through gritted teeth – but theirs is a genuine dislike for each other.

From the moment the big three, Roger Federer included before his withdrawal, landed in the same half of the draw, it threw up a nice contrast in terms of tennis past and the sport’s future.

Alongside Tsitsipas and Medevedev in their half of the draw is seemingly part three of men’s tennis’ new triumvirate in Alexander Zverev.

The irony is that both Tsitsipas and Medvedev’s parents are good friends while the players’ own relationship has never quite recovered from a feisty encounter in Miami back in 2018.

The Russian had been incensed by his Greek opponent’s failure to apologise for a let, a defeated Tsitsipas petulantly saying “b******t Russian” under his breath shortly after they shook hands at the end of the match. That brought its own four-letter tirade from his opponent.

Tsitsipas has since called Medvedev’s game “boring” before admitting that “our chemistry isn’t the best”, teeing up a potentially ill-tempered encounter in the night match in Paris on Tuesday.

For the most part, the rivalry has been thoroughly one-sided. Medvedev boasts a 6-1 advantage but clay – a surface the 25-year-old had previously said was only fit for dogs – is not where he has traditionally shone.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

But the Dunlop balls used at this year’s tournament allied to a lower and faster bounce on court has helped to level the playing field, making it more in keeping with a hard court, where Medvedev has enjoyed his best results.

And yet Tsitsipas goes into the match as the clear favourite. Nadal aside, he has been the best player on clay this season with 20 wins and losses to just Nadal, Djokovic and Casper Ruud.

But then there is always the mental aspect. After one of his six defeats to Medvedev, Tsitsipas admitted his rival had “got in his head” and there is the facet that Tsitsipas has never reached a Grand Slam final in contrast to Medvedev’s two past final experiences.

Of their rivalry leading into the match, Medvedev said quite simply: “It seems to me that we respect each other as players but not too much on a personal level. Playing Stefanos in the quarters, by the results this year on clay, he’s definitely in the top three. I’m really looking forward to this match and what I can propose him.”

As for Tsitsipas, he said his rival was serving akin to John Isner, perhaps a backhanded compliment in the sense that he beat the American in the third set.

His trick is to not think of those past meetings. As he put it after beating Pablo Carreno Busta in the previous round: “I don’t have to think who I’m facing or not, I just have to play my game, let the rest be witnessed.

“I’ve played some of my best tennis when I don’t think much on court, when everything is being done automatically. So, less thinking, more action.”

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