NEW YORK, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Daniil Medvedev never sought to be the pantomime villain at this year’s U.S. Open but after being lustily booed by the New York crowd for his on-court antics during his last two wins, he is learning to use the energy to his advantage.
The 23-year-old Russian was on a hot streak coming into the U.S. Open, having reached three successive finals.
That run, which included a win over world number one Novak Djokovic en route to the Cincinnati Masters title, raised expectations that he could finally be the one who would break Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer’s stranglehold on the Grand Slam tournaments – with the trio having won the last 11 majors between them.
But the Russian’s short fuse got the better of him in his third-round win over Feliciano Lopez, where he angrily snatched a towel from a ball person, threw his racket and showed the crowd his middle finger, which led to fines totalling $9,000 and a shower of boos.
The match ended with Medvedev, arms raised amid a chorus of jeers, sarcastically thanking the crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“The only thing I can say, the energy you’re giving me right now, guys, I think it will be enough for my next five matches. The more you do this, the more I will win, for you guys,” said the world number five, who picked up fines after each of his first three matches at Flushing Meadows this year.
The crowd let him have it again after his fourth-round win over Dominik Koepfer on Sunday when he performed a dance after match point.
“Talking about the last match, I was an idiot, to be honest,” he said on Sunday about his win over Lopez.
“I did some things that I’m not proud of and that I’m working on to be a better person on the court because I do think I’m a good person out of the court,” he said.
“Talking about today, during my match I was completely focused. After the match, I engaged a little bit with the crowd.
“But we all know how New York crowd can be. It’s probably the most electric crowd in the world.
“Especially playing this week on big courts, I could feel it. Today I was just engaging with the crowd and hopefully — hopefully it was fun for them and for me.
“As I said, it gave me a lot of energy to win.”
Medvedev can expect similar treatment from the crowd again on Tuesday during his quarter-final against the popular Stan Wawrinka.
Medvedev’s trolling of the crowd has become the talk of the tournament, with opinions split.
“There’s a lot of young guys that do things on the tennis court that maybe is not the best thing to do,” world number six Alexander Zverev said.
“I don’t want the next generation to be known for that,” the 22-year-old added.
But not everyone thinks Medvedev’s antics are bad for the sport.
“It’s just so funny,” women’s top seed Naomi Osaka said.
“Every day, he has something new to say, like, he wins and then he’s, like, ‘Because of you guys I have the energy’,” she said.
“The sarcasm is beautiful.” (Reporting by Rory Carroll Editing by Pritha Sarkar)