NEW YORK (Reuters) - Will the real Daniil Medvedev please stand up?
Medvedev, Russia’s mercurial 23-year-old breakout star of Flushing Meadows, was until this year an unknown quantity but now looks capable of beating anyone.
The crowd-goading villain turned contrite everyman, Medvedev is a man of many faces so it came as little surprise when a reporter at a media conference on Friday accidentally called him by the wrong name.
After reaching his first Grand Slam final with a straight sets victory over Grigor Dimitrov on Friday, it is unlikely anyone will make that mistake again.
Medvedev, who has won 20 of his last 22 matches across four tournaments, has barely had time to reflect on what he has achieved over the past couple of months.
“This summer’s been ... so fast and long at the same time. Long because I’ve played so many matches,” said Medvedev.
“At the same time so fast because ... I didn’t have any moment to just sit down and look back and say, ‘Okay, I’ve done amazing things.’”
Among those amazing things, Medvedev hoisted the trophy at Cincinnati, a tournament that saw him topple 16-times Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic before beating David Goffin in the final.
His Grand Slam record has been tougher to reconcile.
After reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open he crashed out in the first round at Roland-Garros before exiting Wimbledon in the third.
“This year I lost two really tough five-setters, at Roland-Garros, leading 2-0, having a break in the fifth,” Medvedev said. “Wimbledon, having break in the fifth. I lost them, but it’s a great experience to know how it is to not let this happen again.”
Early on at the U.S. Open, the fifth seed embraced his role as the guy everyone loves to hate.
His on-court antics, which included angrily snatching a towel from a ballperson and showing the crowd the middle finger, have earned him $19,000 in fines.
Facing a hostile crowd after his third-round win over Feliciano Lopez, Medvedev dished it back, telling spectators he “won because of you,” goading the jeering masses in the style of an old-school wrestling heel.
Medvedev then changed tack after his quarter-final win over 2016 champion Stan Wawrinka, telling the crowd, “I have to say sorry guys, and thank you.”
After clinching his U.S. Open final berth, Medvedev reiterated a simple goal he has made for himself during the tournament: Try to be a better person.
“I actually have no idea why the demons go out when I play tennis,” said Medvedev. “I was working hard because every time I do something wrong on the court, I’m sitting with myself, I’m not like this in normal life. Why does it happen? I don’t want it to happen like this.”
He will need the crowd on his side in Sunday’s final when he faces Rafa Nadal, who pummelled him at the Rogers Cup.
“Talking about Rafa, it’s tough to find words,” said Medvedev. “He’s one of the greatest champions in the history of our sport. He’s just a machine, a beast on the court.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford