As No. 2 Daniil Medvedev seeks answers, Hubert Hurkacz finds himself in Wimbledon quarterfinals

    • Joined ESPN in 2011
    • Covered two Olympics, a pair of Rugby World Cups and two British & Irish Lions tours
    • Previously rugby editor, and became senior writer in 2018

LONDON — World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev was left with few answers to lingering questions after he suffered his fourth-round defeat to Hubert Hurkacz at Wimbledon on Tuesday.

While the 24-year-old Polish victor’s eyes were brimming with tears on Centre Court as he tried to pick through his remarkable 2-6, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory, which started Monday and finished Tuesday, Medvedev clearly wanted to move on from the defeat as quickly as possible.

To go from Centre Court to the press room took just a handful of minutes for Medvedev. Clearly still immensely frustrated, Medvedev offered little introspection for his defeat.

“Played really bad today,” he said. “Not much more to say.”

One could sense the irritation at himself, but not — openly at least — at the situation they’d been placed in. Medvedev said he “knew” the match would end up going to Tuesday due to rain delays, having started midafternoon Monday on Court No. 2, an open court at Wimbledon. He said there were brief discussions on whether the match would become the fourth on Centre Court on Monday evening, but said “yes straightaway” to the match being continued Tuesday.

At that stage Medvedev was up two sets to one, with the fourth going with serve. But the restart Tuesday under the roof began with Hurkacz breaking Medvedev early — despite slipping on the court — and he then went on to claim the set and close out the fifth comfortably.

Medvedev now has to pick through this defeat, wondering exactly where it went wrong.

“When you’re second in the world, first [fourth] round is a really bad result. It’s a bad result. That’s it,” he said.

For a player the standard of Medvedev, a fourth-round exit carries the same personal offense as losing in the opening round. Medvedev felt he played the worst two sets since Rome, when he lost in the second round to Aslan Karatsev 6-2, 6-4. With yet another Grand Slam passing him by, and also the chance to usurp Novak Djokovic and go No. 1 in the world, he was left without answers.

“I went out, and I don’t know why I … not many times that I have no explanations or reasons why I couldn’t play good, but I couldn’t put one ball in the court,” he said. “For him, the job was to just put some pressure and serve good. Well, that was easy. Yeah, so right now I have no explanation, so I have no decisions to avoid this next time.”

He also discounted any theory that the pressure of him potentially taking the No. 1 ranking with a run here at Wimbledon was a contributing factor to this surprise defeat.

“I don’t have a goal to win 21 Grand Slams and to be No. 1 in the world for, let’s say, 37 weeks. I just want to show my best, work hard, try to win as many matches as possible,” Medvedev said. “So if I wanted to be No. 1, I needed to win four more matches this Wimbledon. Well, I didn’t manage to do it, but it was not like even in 1% in my mind.”

Medvedev’s wait stretches to another Grand Slam, as he switches focus to the Olympics and then the US Open. His outlook on life is to move on, swipe aside the disappointment and focus on the next task — it has done all right by him so far, in his charge to 11 titles and the No. 2 ranking.

“Now, I mean, in two hours I’m going to already forget all about Wimbledon in a way, just because, well, I did my best,” Medvedev said. “Today my best was really low, but I did my best. Let’s wait for the next Wimbledon.”

But Hurkacz’s dream run at Wimbledon goes on, offering him the chance to face his hero, Roger Federer, in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

This is all very new for the 24-year-old Hurkacz — even the media duties.

“Wow, it’s the big room,” Hurkacz said as he entered the main news conference room at Wimbledon.

It’s the one you see as part of the tour of the famous old tennis haven, but don’t mistake Hurkacz’s youthful exuberance: He’s not here just for the experience and a chance to look around. This is the furthest he has ever advanced in a Grand Slam, but there’s a steely side to him, which rarely breaks through given he has a reputation for being one of the nicest men in the game. He was asked postmatch whether he is actually too nice to be a Grand Slam champ.

“I don’t think so,” he said, smiling.

When asked whether he was going to be nervous facing Federer, he just simply answered: “No,” smiling all the while.

But under the surface, surely Hurkacz will be pinching himself. He called Federer a “special player,” adding it was going to be “unbelievable to be out there playing in the quarterfinal.”

“I’m out to play my best,” he said.

There’s a bit of a smiling assassin about him. Now comes his biggest challenge, though he said even with the quick turnaround, it could work to his advantage.

“I think actually playing today might have helped me because I got used to the indoor conditions, the conditions on the big court, how the ball bounces there, all the crowd,” Hurkacz said. “I think that actually can help me in my next-round match.”

So while Medvedev is moving on to the next challenge and working out how he can finally get that elusive Grand Slam, Hurkacz will continue living the dream against Federer.

“I mean, the way [Federder] plays, like what he did for the whole sport, I think grew the sport massively over his whole career with the way he is, with the way the person he is,” Hurkacz said. “I mean, obviously it’s special to play him.”

The two have met just once, at Indian Wells in 2019, with Federer taking that 6-4, 6-4. But as Hurkacz has proved, he’s giving seedings and reputation short shrift on the court at Wimbledon.

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