World number one Daniil Medvedev (AFP)
Following his crushing loss to the Spanish star in Melbourne – where Nadal rallied after two sets to claim a record 21st Grand Slam title – Medvedev complained of “disrespectful” fans.
But he told Indian Wells on Wednesday that those comments – which came after he was fined US$12,000 for an outburst at the chair umpire in his semi-final win over Stefanos Tsitsipas – were facts in the heat of the moment disappointing.
“It made me mature, the Australian Open,” said the 26-year-old. “I understood that I had a lot to work on myself.”
Medvedev officially became world number one on February 28 – days after his rise was secured when Novak Djokovic fell in the quarter-finals in Dubai.
Playing at the Mexican Open in Acapulco at the time, Medvedev could not celebrate the feat with a title, once again being stopped by Nadal in the championship match.
The two could meet in the semi-finals in Indian Wells, where Djokovic is absent due to US government Covid-19 travel regulations.
Djokovic, who is not vaccinated, only officially withdrew from the tournament on Wednesday when the women’s first round was underway and the men’s draw had already been made.
The five-time Indian Wells champion was replaced in the draw by lucky loser Grigor Dimitrov.
Medvedev acknowledged there was “a lot of pressure” to play as the best player in the world “but at the same time a lot of motivation”, he said.
Although he has the number 1 next to his name, he will not have the Russian flag, after tennis authorities ruled that Russian and Belarusian players cannot compete under their country’s name or flag following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. .
“I want to play tennis, play in different countries, I want to promote my sport,” Medvedev said. Right now the situation is that it’s the only way I can play, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
He also reiterated his desire for peace as fighting raged for a 15th day in Ukraine.
“My message is always the same: I want peace all over the world,” Medvedev said. “I think all tennis players are going to say the same thing.”
The conflict will not fail to cast its shadow over Indian Wells, where a dozen Russian players and four Belarusians are engaged as well as four Ukrainians.
Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, who advanced to the final in Lyon on Sunday a week after escaping Russian bombings in her hometown of Odessa, appeared in court on Wednesday for a first-round match against the French Caroline Garcia draped in a Ukrainian flag.
But she fell at the first hurdle, saving two match points in the tiebreaker of the second set before succumbing 6-4, 6-7 (8/10), 7-5.
Garcia advanced to a second-round encounter with 11th-seeded US Open champion Emma Raducanu.
Raducanu will play her first match since a hip injury forced her to withdraw from her first-round match in Guadalajara last month.
All 32 seeds in the men’s and women’s draws have first-round byes, but the women’s first-round still kicked off a blockbuster between four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka and former big winner Sloane Stephens.
Both are unseeded, with Osaka dropping out of the world top 80 after falling in the third round of her Australian Open title defense.
She is now ranked 78th in the world while Stephens, who ended a four-year drought with a victory in Guadalajara, is ranked 38th.
Among other first-round matches on Wednesday, Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina beat France’s Clara Burel 6-3, 6-2, Japan’s Misaki Doi rallied to beat Anastasia Potapova 0-6, 6-4, 6- 3, Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic beat American Hailey Baptiste 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 and China’s Zheng Qinwen beat 2009 champion Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-2.