Daniil Medvedev last night attempted to shatter the perception shared by many that Novak Djokovic is a villain, recalling a time the superstar had talked to him “like a friend” and even taken him to Serbia on a private jet.
Medvedev delivered a beautiful post-match speech after his 7-5 6-2 6-2 defeat to Djokovic in the men’s Australian Open singles final at Rod Laver Arena.
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Many pundits malign Djokovic, believing he feigns injury to cover up poor play, taking exception to his emotional outbursts and snarling at his extraordinary swagger.
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More specifically, the 18-time Grand Slam champion has triggered outrage in staging a tennis tournament in coronavirus-plagued Croatia, smacking a tennis ball into a lineswoman’s throat and unveiling a controversial quarantine wish-list.
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But Medvedev’s post-match speech presented Djokovic as a hero.
“I first practiced with Novak when I was like 500, 600 in the world in Monaco,” Medvedev said during Nine’s post-match coverage.
“He was already No.1. Just won Wimbledon. I thought, ‘Okay, he’s not going to speak to me’ or something, because the guy was a god for me.
“I came there. Because I was shy, I didn’t speak. He was asking the questions, talking to me like a friend. I was really surprised. It never changed since I was 600 in the world or four in the world – you’re a great sport, great person. So congratulations.”
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Medvedev then recalled another story of his enjoyable experiences with Djokovic during his post-match press conference.
“After we had some other stories where he took me on a private jet to Serbia on Davis Cup,” Medvedev said.
“Still I was just two weeks in the top hundred or something like this.
“Yeah, he was always really nice to me.
“He helped me a lot, I would say, for my confidence in my career.”
Djokovic, already the most successful champion in Australian Open history, last night clinched his ninth Melbourne Grand Slam title triumph.
Perhaps more significantly, securing his 18th major edged him one closer to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who lead the way with 20.
When Djokovic last night stood behind the microphone to address those at Rod Laver Arena, he followed Medvedev’s speech with touching words of his own.
“I would like to return nice words to Daniil. First of all: class act. You’re a great guy, great person,” Djokovic said.
“We used to spend more time together. We used to practice more in Monaco. You’re not calling anymore, the last few years. But it’s nice to see you’re thinking good things about me.
“I really like Daniil as a person. Off the court he is great, always very friendly and very outgoing. On the court he is definitely one of the toughest players I have ever faced in my life.
“It’s a matter of time when you’re going to hold a Grand Slam – that’s for sure. If you don’t mind waiting a few more years.
“I would like everyone just to once more appreciate what he has done over a 20-match winning streak over the last couple of months. Amazing.”