From villain to hero, Daniil Medvedev rolls on at US Open



From Loki to Darth Vader, everybody loves to see a villain eventually turn into a hero. The U.S. Open crowd is no exception. 

As a cinephile himself, second-ranked Daniil Medvedev probably appreciates how he has rewritten his story at Flushing Meadows. The latest chapter was a 6-4, 6-1 6-2 win Wednesday over Dominik Koepfer. The victory moved Medvedev into the third round and completed his transition from public enemy to crowd favorite. 

Medvedev, who was booed in the early stages of the 2019 Open, beat Koepfer back then, en route to the reaching the final, which he lost to Rafael Nadal in five sets. 

On Wednesday, the Russian beat Koepfer again, and this time he did it to the sound of frequent cheers throughout and a standing ovation at the finish at Arthur Ashe Stadium. 

“Personally, really special to be back in front of the crowd in New York,” Medvedev said in an on-court interview. “[The Open in] 2019 is going to stay in my mind. What I’m trying to do is stay in the moment, stay myself and I let the people decide.” 

The people have apparently decide they like Medvedev now. One fan held up a sign with a yellow smiley face and the message “More smiles Daniil.” And the stadium DJ even played “We are Family” during his last changeover. 

Daniil Medvedev of Russia after beating Dominik Koepfer of Germany
Daniil Medvedev of Russia after beating Dominik Koepfer of Germany.
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports

That was a far cry from 2019, when fans booed Medvedev and the Russian embraced playing the villain, urging the crowd on and saying the jeers spurred him to victory. 

Medvedev needed no help to beat Koepfer this time. He was far better than in their prior meeting. Two years ago, he had to rally for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (2) escape that left him visibly drained. This time, it was no contest. 

“Yeah, it was a completely different match than two years ago. Hopefully the same story or better,” Medvedev said. “His level dropped a little bit, and I took advantage of it. I’m really happy to be through in less than two hours.” 

After the German broke him once in the opening set, Medvedev quickly responded and controlled the rest of the match. Medvedev won 80 percent of his points on first serve. He hit five aces in the third set alone. Koepfer had one all day. 

“I had to stay super consistent. I knew it from the beginning of the match, because two years ago when I played him was a tight one,” said Medvedev, who will face Spain’s Pablo Andujar in the third round. “So I knew from the beginning I have to keep my level high, and that’s what I managed to do. That’s how I won.” 

Daniil Medvedev
Daniil Medvedev
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports

Medvedev earned a first-ever meeting with Andujar while showered with cheers instead of jeers, writing a story befitting one of the Hollywood films he loves so much. 

“Yeah, I definitely like to watch movies. That’s just sometimes relaxing, sometimes interesting, sometimes you can learn things from it,” said Medvedev, who added he plans to read Matthew McConaughey’s biography next. “I can watch any movie. I watched a lot of old ones, a lot of classic ones. … I also like new movies coming out. I can literally watch almost any genre. So, yeah, just like movies. 

“My favorite is ‘Catch Me If You Can,’ because I really like the relaxing part of it. I watched it maybe five, six times. It makes me just feel good watching this movie. [Leonardo] DiCaprio, [Tom] Hanks, one of the best actors in history.”


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