US Open Feature | Daniil Medvedev’s Serve: The Russian’s Secret Weapon | ATP Tour

Daniil Medvedev is known for his all-around baseline game. The Russian frustrates opponents with his counter-punching, while stepping into the court when given the opportunity to go on offence. But what is often overlooked in the 24-year-old’s tennis is his serve, which has been as impressive as ever at this US Open.

The third seed, who is into the semi-finals against Dominic Thiem, has not trailed by a break throughout the tournament, and he has only been broken three times in 68 service games. In his quarter-final against Andrey Rublev, Medvedev did not face one break point.

“[The] serve is so important in tennis. When you serve like I did today, it helps a lot,” Medvedev said. “You just know that like this you can focus more on your return games without having to face a break point during all the match.”

Medvedev is not like John Isner, Reilly Opelka or any of the players who consistently top the aces leaderboard. He typically uses his serve to position himself well in points and backs it up with his all-around game to find success from there.

“For me, the best way [to win a point on serve] is to hit an ace, but of course you will not do it all the time. It’s really important, if you don’t make an ace, to give yourself position to be in hold of the point,” Medvedev said. “That’s what [the] serve stays for. And even [on the] second serve you don’t want to be under pressure all the time.

“That’s, for example, the toughest challenge against guys like Roger and Novak, because no matter how you serve your second serve they are going to pressure you. You feel tough about it. So that’s what everybody is trying to do. I try to get [an] advantage with the serve.”

Medvedev’s Pre-US Open 2020 Serving vs. US Open Serving

 Pre-US Open
 US Open

 Service Games Won

 First-Serve Points Won

 Second-Serve Points Won

The Russian has far exceeded his 2020 season’s statistics at Flushing Meadows. In his first five events of the year, Medvedev won 81 per cent of his service games, earned 75 per cent of his first-serve points and won 52 per cent of his second-serve points. In New York, he has claimed 96 per cent of his service games, 83 per cent of his first-serve points and 62 per cent of his second-serve points.

Medvedev put in his best serving performance of the tournament against Rublev, with 46 per cent of his serves going unreturned. He also served harder than in any other round, averaging more than 122 miles per hour with his first delivery and almost 99 miles per hour with his second serve.

“In general he has a really good serve. He serves any direction he wants and he feels all of them really well,” Rublev said. “He’s quite [tall]. It’s normal that he has a good serve.”

Medvedev’s Serving Against Rublev

 Service Games Won/Lost

 Unreturned Serves

 First-Serve Points Won

 Second-Serve Points Won

 Aces/Double Faults

The 6’6” righty serving well is not a new phenomenon, though. He has long stymied even some of the world’s best returners. In the final of the 2018 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, Medvedev only lost five service points in upsetting home favourite Kei Nishikori for the title. But he is still always tinkering to make it better.

On Wednesday’s ESPN broadcast, analysts discussed how Medvedev’s service toss is not as widespread as it was a couple of years ago. Back then, he would sometimes give away his slice serve by tossing the ball far off to the right, for example.

“We didn’t work on it precisely, the toss. But that’s something that when I was a junior, I was tossing too much in front and too low for my size,” Medvedev said. “Every time we work on my serve with my coach, every serve you do, he tries to adjust, maybe this one push more with the legs, this one toss higher. That’s how in practice it makes you better.

“Of course during the match I don’t think at all about the toss. I just think, ‘Okay, where [should] I serve?’ And I just go for it. It’s more during practice. And not specifically the toss, but everything together.”

Medvedev’s semi-final against Thiem promises to be a gripping baseline duel between a master of relentless offence in Thiem against one of the best players in the world at absorbing aggression in Medvedev. But keep an eye on the Russian’s serve. If that continues to fire, it could make all the difference inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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