For a man who has openly disliked the clay surface and had never won a match at the Foro Italico before in his three previous appearances, Daniil Medvedev’s defeat of Holger Rune in the final of the Rome Masters’ on Sunday shows a remarkable transformation by the Russian.
I like clay much more now,! Daniil Medvedev
Medvedev’s 7-5 7-5 defeat of the Dane for his first trophy on the surface augurs well for his French Open chances which starts next Sunday.
“I don’t love clay, but let’s call it a friendship,” said Medvedev after his one-hour, 41-minute victory over the 20-year-old fast-rising Danish star.
“I always want to believe in myself and I always want to win the biggest tournaments in the world,” the former world number one Medvedev said after claiming his fifth title of the season and 20th of his career.
“But at the same time, I didn’t think I could win a Masters’ 1000 on clay in my career because usually I hated it, I hated playing on it. I didn’t feel good on it and nothing was working,” he added having also beaten the 2017 champion Alexander Zverev and 2022 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas in his run this year’s final.
“When I came here I felt so good in practice and I told my coach, ‘I don’t know what is happening but I am feeling amazing, so let’s see how it goes’,” the Muscovite continued.
“But then you have to play the toughest opponents in the world to try to make it.
“I am really happy I managed to do it and to prove to myself and everyone else that I am capable of doing it.”
The final itself was delayed by the rain which had disrupted schedules during the week but once it got underway, Medvedevs’ new found confidence on the surface was evident from the start as he applied pressure from the opening moment to keep Rune guessing.
However, Rune did not wilt, keeping pace with the Russian only to suffer a crucial break in the 14th game to concede the opening set after 90-minutes of tense play.
Rune then responded by opening the second set with a break but the third seed regained his momentum in the fourth game to level.
Again Rune hit back in the seventh which started with a 38-shot rally ending on a Medvedev error and edging Rune closer to levelling the final at 4-3. He then held for 5-3 only to stumble as Medvedev broke back at the start of a four-game run to the finish line.
“Today we both started a little nervous,” Medvedev said. “We were missing easy shots.
“I was able to step it up at the end of the first set before he did.
“But in the second he stepped up immediately, I knew I had to play better and not overthink it too much, just go up to his level. After that I played amazing.”
Historically this was the first final since 2004 which didn’t feature either Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic – the former absent with a hip injury and the latter beaten by Rune in the semi-finals – and had Rune turned the tables, he would have been the youngest champion since Nadal’s triumph in 2006.
While Rune missed out on his second Masters’ title, Medvedev was celebrating his sixth at that level and is now eyeing up his chances of adding the French Open to his single grand slam crown he collected at the US Open in 2021.
As in Rome, he hadn’t got past the opening round on the clay courts of Roland Garros in his first four appearances but broke that run two years ago by reaching the last eight and the following year, 2022, the last 16.
“I like clay much more now,” he confirmed after Sunday’s final and now should feature strongly in the latter stages of the second grand slam of the year.