Editor’s note: This story was translated from ATPTour.com/es
Daniil Medvedev was one of the first elite opponents Carlos Alcaraz crossed paths with. The Spaniard faced Medvedev in the second round at Wimbledon in 2021, when the then-18-year-old Spaniard had only ever played against one opponent from the Top 5 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings (Rafael Nadal, in Madrid, earlier that season).
Despite bowing out to Medvedev that day at the grass-court Grand Slam, Alcaraz left London feeling he had taken giant strides in his learning process.
On Friday, Alcaraz and Medvedev are due to clash at the Nitto ATP Finals in a match that is decisive for the Spaniard — a win will be enough to take him to the semifinals, while his opponent has already progressed thanks to his victory over Alexander Zverev on Wednesday night.
It is barely two years since their first clash at Wimbledon, but life has changed hugely for the 20-year-old Alcaraz. Among his many achievements, he became the youngest World No. 1 in history and now has two Grand Slam titles to his name (Wimbledon and the US Open), as well as four ATP Masters 1000 crowns.
The lessons from that battle against one of the best in the world On Wimbledon’s No. 1 Court provided the Murcia native a huge boost. He quickly learned and put into practice exactly what he needed to improve.
“I have to learn to be more consistent because the good players play every point the same, at a very high intensity, and I have ups and downs,” said Alcaraz said following his defeat to Medvedev. “Before going out on court I was calm, but when I stepped out, I got more nervous than normal. I found it difficult to deal with those nerves in the first games.
“At the end of the day, everything makes you nervous and that’s what happened to me. This is part of the learning process. Playing in that kind of stadium is an experience you have to have. Playing here is a giant step I have taken in my process. It will really help me in the future and next time I play I’ll be able to focus differently. I will already know what it is to go through this, and I’ll know how to control my nerves.”
“He’s an incredible player,” said an impressed Medvedev after the match. “I’m sure Carlos will soon be in the Top 10. He’s a very special player who is playing his first matches in Grand Slams and winning in Australia and at Roland Garros… I didn’t win a single match in my first Grand Slam.”
Dialling In From Deep: Can Medvedev Counter Alcaraz Net Charge In Turin?
Medvedev was not wrong: Alcaraz’s rise was rapid and, after his rise into the Top 10 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in April 2022, he quickly became a contender at all of the biggest events on Tour.
The next time Alcaraz and Medvedev were on opposite sides of a net, the Spaniard was the World No. 1 and had a Grand Slam title under his belt (the 2022 US Open). It came this year, in the final of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Alcaraz beat Medvedev with a masterclass in tactical tennis. The same thing happened in the semi-finals at Wimbledon, where the Spaniard cruised to another straight-sets win before going on to beat Novak Djokovic for the title.
However, the story would not be complete without Medvedev reaping his revenge, and he did just that in the next chapter of their rivalry, in the semi-finals of the US Open in September. There, the current No. 3 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings took the spoils after four sets to level the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series at 2-2.
With both players firmly established among the elite, and without the differences that separated them when they first met at Wimbledon in 2021, who will take the win on Friday at Turin’s Pala Alpitour?