SHANGHAI – Having lost to Daniil Medvedev in their past two matches, world No 1 Novak Djokovic on Tuesday hailed the young Russian as a “very complete player.”
The 23-year-old Medvedev is at a career-high No 4 and reached the final at the US Open, where he lost to Rafael Nadal in five sets.
Medvedev has captured three titles this year, including beating Djokovic en route to claiming victory at the Cincinnati Masters in August.
“The last several months he’s been playing the tennis of his life,” Djokovic said at the Shanghai Masters, where he is the defending champion.
“He’s played finals at least in every event in the last five, six tournaments, which is amazing.”
The 32-year-old from Serbia, who could again face Medvedev in the Shanghai semifinals, said it is difficult to find a weakness in the Russian’s game.
“He’s improved his movement, his fitness, his endurance. He’s got that big serve, he’s got the height and he is very good at using angles,” said Djokovic.
“It’s hard to break his backhand, it’s very flat. He doesn’t make many mistakes and he can hit anything he wants from that corner.
“Forehand has maybe been his weaker side, but now he’s improved that, so he’s become a very complete player.”
Medvedev, seeded third, opens his Shanghai Masters campaign on Tuesday against Britain’s Cameron Norrie.
Murray set for GS return
Meanwhile, Andy Murray will make his Grand Slam return at the Australian Open in January, a year after career-saving hip surgery, tournament organizers announced Tuesday.
Britain’s three-time major winner has been slowly working his way back to fitness and is now ranked 289th, up from 503rd just a week ago.
The 32-year-old won his opening match at the Shanghai Masters on Monday, beating Argentine qualifier Juan Ignacio Londero in three sets, following a quarterfinal appearance in Beijing last week.
With his confidence growing by the day, Australian Open organizers said the former world No 1 had committed to extending his comeback into the majors in January.
“Confirmed: Andy Murray will return to compete at the #AusOpen in 2020,” they tweeted.
The official Australian Open website said Murray “will return to the main draw with a protected ranking of No 2 and restored physical powers”.
Djokovic said it was “pleasantly surprising” to see Murray back following his surgery.
“Regardless of his ranking currently, Andy is a great champion and one of the greats of our game,” said Djokovic. “If he’s healthy, you can definitely expect him to play at the highest level very soon.
“I wish him that; it’s great to see him back.”
Murray has made the final five times at Melbourne Park, losing four times to Djokovic and once to Roger Federer.
However, arguably his most heartbreaking moment at the season-opening Grand Slam came not on the court but at an emotional media conference ahead of this year’s tournament.
Murray broke down in tears describing how the pain in his right hip, which had been operated on six months earlier, had become unbearable.
“I can play with limitations, but having the limitations and the pain is not allowing me to enjoy competing or training,” he said, later revealing that even walking his dog had become an ordeal.
Tributes flowed for the well-liked Scot, with legendary Billie Jean King calling him “a champion on and off court”.
Fellow players also saluted him in an emotional video screened at center court after he lost an epic fivesetter to Roberto Bautista Agut, with most believing his Grand Slam career was over.
“It was a very emotional Australian Open for him and for many tennis fans,” Djokovic said. “But it seemed like it was too early to goodbye and it’s great to have him back competing.”
Murray said after his win over Londero in Shanghai that his movement on the court felt like it was steadily improving.
“In the beginning I didn’t necessarily feel good, but the last couple of weeks have been I think much improved,” he said.
In 2013, Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon for 77 years, ending the nation’s obsession with finding a champion to follow in the footsteps of Fred Perry.
Agence France – Presse