Medvedev has already won considerably more matches than anybody else in 2019 – 55, with the next biggest haul of victories belonging to Rafael Nadal on 48 – and has reached the final of his last five tournaments, finishing runner-up to Nick Kyrgios, Rafael Nadal and Nadal again at the Citi Open, Canada Masters and US Open and winning the Cincinnati Masters and St Petersburg.
The last tournament Medvedev played where he failed to reach the final was Wimbledon, where he was narrowly beaten by David Goffin in the third round, 5-7 in the fifth set after squandering a lead.
Having actually taken a couple of weeks off after St Petersburg, Medvedev had little trouble in immediately resuming winning ways when he started his Shanghai campaign on Tuesday. The Russian was due to face Gilles Simon, to whom his playing style has often been compared and who has an unbeaten record against him, in the first round, but Simon was upset by qualifier Cameron Norrie and Medvedev took full advantage of that piece of good fortune as he cruised past Norrie 6-3, 6-1 in less than an hour, serving nine aces and losing only nine points on serve (just two of them behind his second serve), breaking Norrie four times.
‘It was a great match. As I say, it’s never easy to play a qualifier. [It] was my first match here in Shanghai after few weeks without a tournament finally, so I was a little bit even stressed about my level, but finally I managed to show a really good level, get out from there in less than one hour. Really happy and looking forward,’ Medvedev said.
Medvedev qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals some time ago and has nothing to worry about this week in Shanghai except trying to improve on last year’s result – a third-round defeat to Roger Federer – and reach his fourth Masters 1000 Series quarterfinal of the season.
There really couldn’t be a bigger contrast between Medvedev’s immensely busy, tremendously fruitful 2019 season and that of his third-round opponent in Shanghai, Vasek Pospisil. Medvedev has played 72 matches, winning 55 of them; Pospisil has played just 15, and that includes the four he’s already won in Shanghai this week to qualify for the main draw and reach the third round.
The 29-year-old Pospisil ranked as high as world no. 25 in 2014 after reaching his sole ATP Tour final so far at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., but his career has been bedeviled by injuries and in recent times it feels like he’s been more prominent as an outspoken voice on the tangled politics of the ATP and tennis in general than as a player.
Pospisil won two Challengers and finished runner-up at two more in 2018 to end the season as the world no. 75, but injury once again intervened in 2019 as he underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back and, as a consequence, missed the first six months of the season, only returning to action at Wimbledon in July. His ranking had dropped to world no. 187 and quickly plummeted out of the top 200. Pospisil lost to compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime in the first round of Wimbledon and in six subsequent events only won four matches: Challenger victories over an unranked player and another ranked outside the top 400, a win over Andreas Seppi in qualifying for the China Open last week and a stellar five-set victory over ninth seed Karen Khachanov in the first round of the US Open.
Maybe that win over Khachanov, which I found very surprising at the time and which was just the fifth top-10 victory of Pospisil’s career in 28 attempts, was a sign of things to come because Pospisil has been on a tremendous tear in Shanghai so far and hasn’t dropped a set in four matches. He beat Adrian Mannarino and Marcel Granollers to qualify for the main draw, then ousted 14th seed Diego Schwartzman and Portugal’s Joao Sousa to reach the third round. Most impressive has been his serving: He’s only lost three points behind his first serve in his two main-draw matches, serving 26 aces across the two.
This will be the first meeting between Medvedev and Pospisil, and it will be intriguing to see whether Pospisil is able to keep up that tremendous strike rate of success behind his first serve when he’s facing a returner like Medvedev. The quick courts in Shanghai are on his side, and it’s a good test for Medvedev, who must maintain focus and hold his own serve, on the assumption that chances to break Pospisil will be few and far between and must be capitalized upon. It’s the kind of match-up – a big server against a player with a more rounded game who excels from the back of the court – that Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have made a career out of winning. Medvedev should be able to follow in their footsteps.
Medvedev vs Pospisil Shanghai Masters tennis is live from Shanghai on Thursday at 12.30pm local/5.30pm BST
Medvedev vs Pospisil tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Last year’s Shanghai finalist in danger of exiting in the first round
Third seed Daniil Medvedev takes on Vasek Pospisil, who has been serving up a storm at the Shanghai Masters, for…
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