Medvedev shines in Paris, but fails to escape Wimbledon shadow

The Russian world number two stormed into French Open second round with straight-set win


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Daniil Medvedev serves during his match against Facundo Bagnis. (AP)
Daniil Medvedev serves during his match against Facundo Bagnis. (AP)

Published: Wed 25 May 2022, 12:23 AM

World number two Daniil Medvedev eased into the French Open second round on Tuesday but he could not escape the shadow of Wimbledon, the Grand Slam tournament where he has been declared persona non grata.

Medvedev, who came into Paris with just one match on clay this year following hernia surgery, routed Argentina’s 103rd-ranked Facundo Bagnis 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 on the back of 35 winners and eight breaks of serve.

“I love Roland Garros, especially since last year,” said Medvedev, who had lost in the opening round on his first four trips to Paris before reaching the quarterfinals in 2021. “I hope this year I can go further.”

One place he will not be going, however, is the All England Club next month after Wimbledon banned all Russian and Belarusian players in response to Russia’s conflict with Ukraine and Belarus’s role in it.

The ATP and WTA responded by stripping the sport’s most prestigious tournament of ranking points.

One day after former world number one Naomi Osaka said she was “leaning towards not playing” Wimbledon while defending champion Novak Djokovic said he will play — despite losing 2,000 points — in what he described as a “lose-lose situation”, the controversy showed no signs of abating.

Medvedev still yearns to play at Wimbledon and finds the situation “very strange” that he could climb to the top of the men’s rankings even if excluded from the grasscourt Grand Slam. Medvedev briefly took over as world number one from Djokovic earlier in 2022 and will be the highest-ranked player to miss out on the major.

Djokovic, who will lose the 2,000 points he earned by lifting last year’s trophy, is among many players who will be affected and could drop down the rankings, paving the way for Medvedev to overtake him.

“Very strange,” a smiling Medvedev told reporters. “I need to be honest. I’d be really happy to play Wimbledon. I love Wimbledon. I love playing on grass. I will play on grass (elsewhere) after Roland Garros. But if I cannot, (I’m) just going to prepare for the next tournaments and just follow what’s happening there.

“There are no points, I become number one. Well, great for me. If there are points, I cannot become number one, I’m going to be gutted. It is what it is. I cannot change some decisions, both about ATP and Wimbledon.”

Denis Shapovalov, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2021, said he objected both to the ban imposed by Wimbledon and the decision to strip the points.

“I think they could have gone with it a different way, maybe keep 50 percent like they have in the past or some kind of fairness,” said the Canadian.

Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, admitted she was also in two minds over Wimbledon.

“If there are no points, I’m not really sure what I’m going to do,” the Latvian 13th seed said after beating Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti.

The biggest loser on the women’s side will be the Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova who will drop the 1,000 points she gathered by finishing runner-up to the now retired Ashleigh Barty in 2021.

She too wants at least 50% of the points to be retained. She still intends to return to the All England Club. “If you love the game you’re still going to go and play. So I think they mainly punished the players, which I didn’t quite get this decision,” explained 2017 Paris semifinalist Pliskova after making the second round by beating Tessah Andrianjafitrimo 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, 19-year-old Holger Rune of Denmark marked his main draw debut with a 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) dismissal of 14th-seeded Shapovalov. — afp/reuters

Rune, the boys champion in 2019 and a former world junior number one, entered Paris at a career-high 40 having started 2021 outside of the top 400.

In the current clay season, he won his first title in Munich, beating world number three Alexander Zverev on the way.

“I think it’s nice. This is what you work for every day to be able to play the biggest tournaments,” said Rune after his maiden Grand Slam match win. Shapovalov committed 53 unforced errors in a tie played at breakneck speed.

“I didn’t really show up today but Holger played great tennis,” admitted Shapovalov.

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