Oct/20

13

How Agassi Saved Medvedev’s Career

Andre Agassi’s book Open is full of fascinating insights and anecdotes, one of the most striking ones was when a former top 5 ATP player was so despressed and doubtful about his game, he was about to quit the sport at just 24.

Andrei Medvedev was not even 25 years old and ranked 100, seemingly down and out in the spring of 1999, five years after he was ranked 4 in the world. Medvedev was in Monte Carlo and had lost first round to a 20 year old Croatian future star Ivan Ljubicic 75 06 16.

That night of his loss to Ljubicic, Medvedev was at a nightclub in Monte Carlo. Agassi tells the story: “Brad (Gilbert) and I bumped into Medvedev. He’d suffered a heartbreaking loss that day and was drinking to numb the pain. We invited him to join us. He threw himself into a chair at our table and announced that he was quitting tennis. ‘I can’t play this game anymore,’ Medvedev said. ‘I’m old. The game has passed me by.'”

Agassi did not accept the negativity he was hearing and decided on the spot to talk his namesake out of that hasty decision to hang up his racquets. Agassi generously shared some free coaching tips which were revealed on page 297 in Open: “I told Medvedev he had a huge serve, a big return, and a world class backhand. His forehand was not his best shot, of course, that was no secret, but he could hide it, because he was big enough to push opponents around.”

“You’re a good mover! Get back to the basics. Keep moving. Slam your first serve and rip the backhand up the line.”

In the Open account of the memory, Agassi was slightly amiss with his memory as he inaccurately said Medvedev immediately got hot from his advice and began “winning consistently on the Tour and dominating guys in this tournament.” But that was only half correct. After Monte Carlo, Medvedev’s ranking dropped and he was unable to play main draws at Hamburg, Rome or Barcelona. Medvedev did not play a Tour match after Monte Carlo until Roland Garros.

But Medvedev did suddenly produce high quality results at Roland Garros, no doubt aided by his educational and inspirational encounter with Agassi. Medvedev’s first round win was 63 61 61 against Dinu Pescariu.

Then in the second round Medvedev beat world no. 2 Pete Sampras 75 16 64 63. He was on his way.

Those two victories restored Medvedev’s self belief and guided him to his career defining moment results. In the third round he beat Byron Black in four sets. In the round of 16 the Ukrainian defeated France’s Arnaud DiPasquale 76 76 61. Then in the quarterfinal he took out the 1997 Roland Garros champ Gustavo Kuerten 75 64 64. Medvedev beat Fernando Meligeni in the semi 75 36 64 76.

Of course, in a twist of irony, Medvedev then faced his unofficial coaching consultant Agassi in the final and was ahead two sets to love but then Agassi managed to turn the tables and won 16 26 64 63 64, to win his first and only French Open.

Medvedev extended his career two more years after the successful 1999 which he ended up with a record of 26-23 after the disappointing 6-7 start.

Medvedev retired in 2001 at age 27. His last ATP main tour match was in St. Petersburg, a 76 62 loss to Stefan Koubek. Medvedev did play one more ATP Futures event in 2015, a doubles loss with unranked Bogdan Didenko (lost to two players ranked 902 and 818).

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