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Daniil Medvedev Hates The Indian Wells Court, And It Hates Him Back

Daniil Medvedev lies on the court during his fourth-round match at Indian Wells.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

In seventh grade, we were taught that there were three types of conflict in stories: man vs. man, man vs. self, man vs. nature. This taxonomy never felt especially useful until I saw Daniil Medvedev go a perfect 3-for-3 in his third-round match Tuesday at Indian Wells.

Nominally it was a tennis match against Sascha Zverev, who savors a long slog from the baseline. And every tight Medvedev match will involve a little self-flagellation. But it was primarily a battle between the Russian and a court surface that he profoundly despises.

Medvedev has either won or gone deep in every hard-court tournament of note, but he has never advanced past the fourth round at Indian Wells. The world No. 6 has spent the last few days complaining about how slowly the ball bounces off the courts, making it very difficult to finish points. When Medvedev doesn't like his work conditions, he can't hide it. “It’s the worst surface in the world for me," he said of clay in 2021. "But if you like to be in the dirt like a dog, I don’t judge.” Medvedev has argued that most of his colleagues are also struggling at Indian Wells, all but an unnamed group of 10 who "have something in their game that can help them."

On Sunday, Medvedev threatened chair umpire Mo Lahyani with a potential bathroom break: "I’m gonna pee as slow as this court is. So you can take 25 minutes. The court is slow so I go slow."

On Tuesday, the gripes continued. "ATP is not doing good enough job on checking the courts. Because it's not hard court," he said. "And there are mics, so I need people to hear it."

The chair umpire Renaud Lichtenstein assured him it was indeed hard court.

"I know what is hard court. I'm a specialist on hard court. This is not hard court," Medvedev replied.

He saved his full-length physical comedy routine for a later changeover.

Freakin' disgrace to sport, this freakin' court. And they call it hard court. What a shame to call this awful court a hard court. I'll go to toilet but I don't care, give me time violation, I'm going to be as slow as the court again. I don't care, give me 10 time violations, I'll go [inaudible]. If they allow us to play on such court, I can allow myself to do whatever I want. [pause, takes a drink of water] Can I go to toilet?

He then mock-trudged his way off the court, ignoring Lichtenstein's pleas to hurry up.

Not long after, during a rally at 3-2 in the second set, Medvedev's right foot fishtailed out from under him and he collapsed in a heap. Slow to rise, he had his ankle wrapped by a physiotherapist. He said in press afterward that he had never rolled his ankle like this at the pro level.

Somehow, Medvedev still prevailed, 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-5, securing his 17th consecutive win. That match looked dicey before his slip. His matchup against Zverev was bound to be a mentally and physically draining baseline grind. Could it be that the court's treachery indirectly helped Medvedev's odds? He made a cheeky argument to that end.

"In the beginning it was quite painful. So I was more concerned and focused on my ankle than the game, and that actually helped me a little bit to play better," Medvedev said. "And then for the rest of the match, adrenaline was probably kicking in, so it was not easy to walk—that's why I was limping—but to move was easier. In a way I can understand how tough it is for the opponent when he sees you limping, and then running for all the drop shots and stuff." He intends to wrap his ankle and take a painkiller to play his next round, his first-ever quarterfinal at Indian Wells, with a familiar old enemy underfoot.

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