Fourth seed and US Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev will be in Grand Slam action for the first time since Flushing Meadows as faces America’s Frances Tiafoe in the first round of the 2020 Australian Open.
Tiafoe, currently ranked 50th, had a major breakthrough in Melbourne 12 months ago, reaching his first Grand Slam quarterfinal following wins over the likes of Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov, though has struggled recently, reaching only four quarterfinals on the ATP Tour since that run in 2019.
In contrast, Medvedev has had a stellar few months, with titles in Cincinnati and Shanghai towards the end of 2019, as well as being the runner-up in New York, Washington DC, and Montreal. The Russian is tipped by some to claim his first Grand Slam in the next fortnight, though will have to overcome Tiafoe first.
2020 has not been too kind to the American so far, with two opening round losses coming Tiafoe’s way. The world no.50 first played in Doha, where he lost in three sets to Marton Fucscovics, before he then lost another tight three set match to Mikhail Ymer in Auckland last week. He will desperately be hoping for a major improvement in form coming into this.
Meanwhile, Medvedev has been in very solid form in his few matches this season. Playing in the ATP Cup for Russia, the world number four picked up wins over the likes of John Isner, Diego Schwartzman, and Fabio Fognini before losing to world number two Novak Djokovic in three tight sets in the last four. He will be pretty content with his build-up to the tournament.
Understandably, Medvedev comes into this match as the big favourite, but that could poses problems in itself. The Russian had not reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal before the US Open last year, and is still not too experienced at this level. Expectation could potentially get the better of the Russian, though he will likely stay calm, and try to profit off any mistakes that Tiafoe makes.
There is also a little pressure on Tiafoe heading into this match, with the points he gained from reaching the last eight in 2019 looming over him. The American must stay calm during rallies, as Medvedev will not make it easy for him to win rallies, though at the same time must look to keep the rallies as short as possible, so the Russian can’t work his way into them. Some big serving would also benefit Tiafoe greatly.
Though this could be a good rivalry in the future, at the moment Medvedev is playing the much better tennis of the two. It is hard to seem him not picking up a comfortable win on his way to the second round.
Prediction: Daniil Medvedev in straight sets