Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and the Power of Vulnerability

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Only then, he said, did he start to enjoy the moment, and to smile, which is part of his secret sauce.

“Smiling for me, as I said a few times, is the key of everything,” he said.

Medvedev doesn’t smile much on the court, and for weeks now Medvedev has told everyone not to expect very much of him at this tournament. He hasn’t done very well at Wimbledon in the past. Until this year, he never exceeded the fourth round. He doesn’t have much of a liking for grass-court tennis, preferring the true, predictable bounces produced by hard courts.

And there he was Wednesday afternoon on the No. 1 court against Eubanks, who was blasting serves and following them up with drop volleys that Medvedev would barely run for. As Eubanks surged to a two-sets-to-one lead, Medvedev was struggling to focus, he said, and could not understand what was happening to him.

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The crowd was firmly in the corner of Eubanks, a massive underdog whom the British fans backed, even though he eliminated their top-ranked player, Cameron Norrie, last week. At one point, Medvedev rolled a perfect running backhand winner past Eubanks and put his finger to his ear, asking for some cheers. When they weren’t loud enough, Medvedev shook his hands in disgust.

With the score so lopsided, he thought back to five years ago, long before he broke through as one of the most promising players of his generation. He was not having all that much success then, and he had yet to achieve a lot of the things he never thought would be possible: multiple Grand Slam finals, a U.S. Open title in 2021, some stints as the world No. 1.

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