Relentless Russian’s backhand was exploited in London, is this a concern going into 2020?

With two Masters 1000 titles and a runners-up plate at the US Open Daniil Medvedev turned up at the O2 in London as the man to spoil the party. Instead the Russian ended up going home without a win.

Defeats to Nadal (from a set up and 5-1 up in the final set), Zverev and eventual champion Tsitsipas sealed his fate despite turning up to London winning eight of his fourteen matches against top ten opponents.

Is what happened in London something to be concerned about in 2020?

Yes.

There were a couple of things in his game in London which didn’t sit right:

  • Too much top-spin on serve and not enough pace
  • Lack of penetration on the backhand
  • Little opportunities created

All three are problematic.

The serve is an interesting one because I’ve seen someone like Dominic Thiem completely eradicate top-spin from his serve and is finding more joy. Tsitsipas has the power and the height in his shoulders to do this. There were too many moments where his serve came back with interest and at his height a 92mph second serve isn’t going to sit nicely on return.

The backhand on the other hand is an issue I spoke about in New York. 14 winners in the three matches from Daniil means big problems. The 14 winners was the third lowest from a player at the O2 (Djokovic – 12 and Berrettini – 11). In all honesty, Djokovic didn’t get going and Berrettini will find more rhythm off it in what was essentially a debut season.

Daniil’s however still bothers me slightly…

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 22.28.48

One of my main issues is how close the arms are to the body of Medvedev. It makes him up tight and he failed to penetrate off his backhand in London. With the style of play he has on the baseline he should have had more of an impact.

If he stretched out his arms a little more like a Goffin, Djokovic or Murray do then it really opens up a good option. Up-tight approach to the backhand leaves it difficult to pull down the line.

You can see that Rafa is on his bike ready to cover cross-court which is what he did and won the point against the Russian.

You can see the yellow boxes show a high percentage of where shots would land when he hits the backhand either down the line or cross court.

If he were to pick a more broader stance on the baseline and open his arms up. little bit more it would increase the effectiveness, scope (green lines) and make the backhand more unpredictable.

His trip to London wasn’t we expected following his epic season on the tour. This is a small change on a slower court that will just help him out. I am interested to see where he goes with his game this year. I think he will be a presence throughout the season, that same consistency will be tough to replicate.

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