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Daniil Medvedev’s 2023 renaissance has been nothing short of magnificent, amassing five titles and 35 wins since his loss to Seb Korda at the Australian Open and finding himself languishing at 12th in the ATP rankings as recently as the opening week of February.

He now enters Roland Garros as the second seed fresh off his maiden title on clay, the Rome Masters, not too shabby considering he had seldom enjoyed success on the red dirt.

For years we have heard terms like, “I don’t want to play on this stupid surface.”

Or, “My game doesn’t suit clay, I hate everything around me.”

But hoisting the cup aloft within the Foro Italico following his 7-5 7-5 win over Dane Holger Rune has catapulted the Russian into a firm favourite for 2023’s second major, a sentence many thought they would never utter considering his sheer hatred for clay.

Medvedev conquered the Alexander Zverev (for the third time this year), Stefanos Tsitsipas and his Danish counterpart, who saw him off in the quarterfinals of Monte Carlo in April.

All three of those wins alone are mighty on clay, even over Zverev, who we must not forget was pushing Rafael Nadal to the absolute brink in last year’s French Open semifinal before injuring the ankle that would keep him from competition until the Australian Summer eight months later.

The Italian capital’s tournament also boasts similar conditions to that of the Parisian clay, with the two famous municipalities sharing a similar climate and altitude above sea level, with Rome being at 21 metres and Paris at 35.

Very even considering Madrid’s astronomical height of 657 metres, presenting a variety of challenges to many clay court specialists.

It seems as though the Russian could be on for something that very few thought achievable when he was blown off the court by Korda in Melbourne, but here he lies, behind only Carlos Alcaraz in the rankings with a chance to regain the number one mantle should he salute in France.

So, let’s look at his draw.

Qualifier Thiado Seyboth Wild (Brazil) in the opening round should be fairly straight forward for the former major champion.

Should he get through, he faces either Quentin Halys or Guido Pella in the second, with Yoshihito Nishioka the first seed he is expected to meet in round three.

It gets tricker from there, with a likely fourth round match up against an in form Borna Coric, Australian Alex de Minaur or two-time French Open finalist in Dominic Thiem.

Should the Russian book passage to the elite eight, it is likely that his opponent from the Miami Open decider in Jannik Sinner will be waiting, at the major where he reached his first quarterfinal.

Medvedev has never fallen victim to the Italian, leading the head-to-head 6-0. But each of those meetings has been on a hard court, clay is a different story.

Should the World No.2 go through to the final four in Paris for the first time, 2022 runner-up Casper Ruud may await, but it could be Rune or American hope Taylor Fritz.

Like his rivalry with Sinner, Medvedev has never lost to Ruud or Fritz but with no clay court encounters to pass judgement on, while his ledger against the Dane is at one apiece from their two meetings, both on the red dirt this year.

The bottom half of the draw would be a sigh of relief for the 27-year-old, with Alcaraz, Novak Djokovic and his bitter rival Stefanos Tsitsipas on the top half, all of which would have flown to Paris with confidence that they can lift the Coupe de Mousquetaires come the final Sunday in the city of love.

Alcaraz is the clear favourite given his recent form while Djokovic can never be ruled out, but Medvedev has already defeated the latter on hard in Dubai this year in what was the Serbian’s first loss of 2023.

The term ‘Clayvedev’ has surfaced, and it could very easily capture the grounds of Roland Garros across the next fortnight.

It would be one of the most magnificent narratives in tennis if he wins it.


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