Daniil Medvedev, who will play his first tournament as the world number one at the Indian Wells ATP Masters, says he has matured since his loss to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final.
In the wake of his crushing loss to the Spanish star in Melbourne – where Nadal put in a two-set rally to win a record 21st Grand Slam title – Medvedev complained of “disrespectful” fans.
But he said in Indian Wells on Wednesday that those comments – which came after he was fined US$12,000 for a chair umpire outburst in his semifinal win over Stefanos Tsitsipas – were made in the heat of the disappointing moment.
“It made me mature, the Australian Open,” said the 26-year-old. “I understood that I had to work a lot on myself.”
Medvedev officially rose to the world number one on February 28 – days after his rise was secured when Novak Djokovic fell to the quarter-finals in Dubai.
Medvedev played in the Mexico Open in Acapulco at the time and was unable to celebrate the feat with a title, again stopped by Nadal in the championship game.
The two could meet again in the semifinals in Indian Wells, where Djokovic is absent due to US government travel regulations Covid-19.
Djokovic, who has not been vaccinated, only formally withdrew from the tournament on Wednesday, when the women’s first round was underway and the men’s draw had already been made.
The five-time Indian Wells champion was replaced in the draw by lucky loser Grigor Dimitrov.
Medvedev acknowledged there was “a lot of pressure” to play as the world’s top-ranked player “but a lot of motivation at the same time,” he said.
Although he will have number 1 next to his name, he will not have the Russian flag after tennis authorities ruled that Russian and Belarusian players are not allowed to compete under their country’s names or flags in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine .
“I want to play tennis, play in different countries – I want to promote my sport,” said Medvedev. At the moment the situation is the only way I can play, so I’m going to do that.”
He also reiterated his desire for peace as fighting raged in Ukraine for a 15th day.
“My message is always the same: I want peace in the whole world,” Medvedev said. “I think every tennis player will say the same.”
The conflict is sure to cast a shadow over Indian Wells, where a dozen players from Russia and four from Belarus are signed up, along with four from Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, who reached the final in Lyon for a week on Sunday after escaping Russian bombings in her home city of Odessa, went to court on Wednesday for a first-round match against France’s Caroline Garcia, draped in a Ukrainian flag.
But she fell at the first hurdle and saved two match points in the second set tiebreak before succumbing to 6-4, 6-7 (8/10), 7-5.
Garcia advanced to a second round meeting with 11th-seeded US Open champion Emma Raducanu.
Blockbuster from Osaka-Stephens
Raducanu will play her first game since a hip injury forced her to withdraw from her first round match in Guadalajara last month.
The 32 seeded players in both the men’s and women’s draws enjoy first-round byes, but the women’s first round has still set off a blockbuster between four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka and former big winner Sloane Stephens.
Both are unseeded, with Osaka dropping out of the top 80 in the world after falling in the third round of her Australian Open title defense.
She now ranks 78th in the world, while Stephens, who ended a four-year title drought with a win in Guadalajara, is 38th.
Among other first-round matches on Wednesday, Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina defeated France’s Clara Burel 6-3, 6-2, Japan’s Misaki Doi rallied to defeat Anastasia Potapova 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic defeated American Hailey Baptiste 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 and China’s Zheng Qinwen defeated 2009 champion Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-2.