Like many a Muscovite, including Rublev, Medvedev grew up playing much of the year in fast indoor conditions.
“It was not even hardcourts — it was more like indoor ice,” Rublev said with a laugh on Saturday. “You touch the ball and the ball is like a rocket. You hit one ball and the ball is going so fast, even when you are 6 years old. In Moscow, there is actually plenty of clay, but the problem is there’s not much summer, only two or three months, so you don’t get much time to play on it.”
Rublev, the No. 7 seed and long based in Spain, has had more consistent results on clay at the pro level and was a quarterfinalist at the French Open in 2020 and a finalist at the Monte Carlo Open last year. His forehand, hit with heavy topspin and major racket-head speed, fits the traditional vision of a clay-courter much more than Medvedev’s with his comparatively flat strokes.
But it is very tempting to agree with Rublev that Medvedev’s biggest obstacle on clay is between the ears.
“He didn’t beat Djokovic in Monte Carlo for nothing,” Rublev said in an interview, recalling a 2019 upset. “So, I think it’s more about him, that he put this in his head, than it is about the clay. And we can all see now that he has won all the matches here quite easy, beating good players.”
Still, the path does not get smoother. Medvedev is in a more welcoming neighborhood than the top half of the draw, but it is still a rough neighborhood with Rublev, Jannik Sinner, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Hubert Hurkacz and Casper Ruud all on the prowl.
Next up for Medvedev: the No. 20 seed Marin Cilic, who overwhelmed a weary Gilles Simon, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2, on Saturday in the 37-year-old Simon’s final French Open match (he will retire at year’s end). Simon, one of the cleanest hitters and deeper thinkers on tour, gave an excellent summary of why it will soon be time to bid adieu.