Medvedev, Zverev and the explosive feud between two of tennis’ biggest stars

Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev
The pair have made no secret of their feelings towards one another (Picture: Getty)

Daniil Medvedev’s dramatic comeback win over Alexander Zverev in the pair’s Australian Open semi-final clash is just another epic chapter in one of sport’s most bitter rivalries.

With Medvedev ranked third in the world and Zverev seventh, the pair often cross paths both on and off the court, but have made no secret of the bad blood that exists between them.

Last season Zverev angrily branded Medvedev ‘one of the most unfair players in the world’, while his counterpart firmly shut down claims that they were once close friends.

The rivals met six times last year, including an explosive showdown in Monte Carlo. The verbal sparing that followed sparked the most pointed and public spat to date, with every moment laid bare in the behind-the-scenes Netflix documentary Break Point.

Here’s everything you need to know about one of the biggest rivalries in the tennis world.

Lifelong opponents

For all their differences on the court, Zverev and Medvedev have some striking similarities.

Medvedev is only a year older than Zverev, and both players have Russian heritage. However, Zverev’s parents, who were professional tennis players for the Soviet Union, left the country for Germany before Zverev was born.

Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev during their clash at the Australian Open 2024
Medvedev has hinted that things were different when both players were amateurs (Picture: PAUL CROCK/AFP via Getty Images)

‘I have Russian origins, and there’s also something Russian about me. The fact that you don’t give up, that you don’t stop fighting, that’s part of being Russian,’ Zverev told the German newspaper Bild. However, he added that he would never represent any country other than Germany.

The stars knew each other on the junior circuit, and Medvedev has hinted that things may once have been very different.

‘I’m not going to go too much into details,’ he said during the fallout to the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in 2023. ‘Just gonna say we were never really close friends, maybe only in juniors.

‘That’s only him, in his congratulations speeches, saying something like he was friends with me and my wife, which is definitely not the case since long time. I never said this.’

The rivals first faced each other as professionals at the St Petersburg Open in 2016, which Zverev won.

What sparked the war of words in Monte Carlo?

The feud came to a head in a ‘crazy’ match at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in 2023.

Things got heated when Medvedev, 5-4 down in the second set, removed one of the net polls but escaped a warning from the umpire, drawing a bemused smile from Zverev.

It’s not the first time that Medvedev had lost his temper in a game. In 2022, he called onlookers ‘idiots’ and ‘empty brained’ during an exchange with umpire John Blom in 2022.

Daniil Medvedev during the match in Monte Carlo
Zverev lashed out at his opponent’s behaviour during the tie (Picture: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Then, Medvedev took a toilet break after winning the second set when the players were only due to switch ends.

Zverev called Medvedev ‘one of the most unfair players in the world’ after the match. He said: ‘I take fair play and sportsmanship very seriously. He takes a toilet break when it is not possible anymore. I am extremely disappointed in him as an athlete.’

Medvedev responded to the comment in a later press conference, saying: ‘When he says someone is not fair play, you’re like, “Okay, great. Look at yourself in the mirror”.

‘He served two times for the match, he probably should have done better.

‘I tried to watch a lot of tennis before playing this tournament, and one thing that I saw is you can come back at any moment.’

Break Point controversy

The build up and aftermath to the match was recorded for an episode of season two of Break Point, Netflix’s tennis docuseries, which aired at the start of January.

In the episode, Zverev said: ‘Look, Medvedev is one of the best players in the world, but I also think that a lot of things that Medvedev does are frustrating at times.

Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev during their clash at the Australian Open 2024
Medvedev came out on top in the latest meeting (Picture: ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)

‘He’s someone who knows how to play with the head of the opponent. I think there are a lot of unfair things happening in the game that he uses quite well to his advantage.

‘I like to win and lose by playing tennis. I’m not someone who tries to do dirty games just to put your opponent off. That’s not how I was taught the game.’

In response to the episode, Medvedev said that ‘it exaggerates’ and ‘it’s not real life’.

Some critics said that the Netflix documentary portrayed Zverev as a hero and skimmed over his controversies, following domestic abuse allegations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *