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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Wednesday, March 6, 2024

A mirage maker on court, Daniil Medvedev faced desert deception in his Indian Wells return this week.

“First day I came here I guess there was a sandstorm the day before I arrived so I went on center court it was lightning fast and I was like ‘Whoah, surprising I love it’,” Medvedev told the media in his BNP Paribas Open pre-tournament presser. “Then the next day it became slow. So let’s see.

“I’m definitely not going to blame the court for anything I do which means play bad or play good or lose or win. I’m gonna enjoy it here. I love it here I’m gonna enjoy my time here and try to prolong it as long as possible.”

More: Simona Halep Will Return at Miami Open

Branding himself a "hard court specialist", Medvedev spent bruising matches exploring his dysfunctional relationship with the purple Indian Wells court during his run to the 2023 final.

Medvedev withstood a sprained right ankle and Alexander Zverev 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-5 then fended off Frances Tiafoe for his 19th consecutive victory to reach his maiden Indian Wells final falling to Carlos Alcaraz last March.

A difference in the 2024 version of the artist known as Meddy Bear: Medvedev hired former nemesis Gilles Simon to join long-time coach Gilles Cervara on his coaching team.

Though Simon is not in Indian Wells this week, he was in Dubai last month as Medvedev, in his first tournament since reaching the Australian Open final, reached the semifinal.

While the pair have no formal contract, Medvedev said the plan is for Simon to travel about three months this season and he’s hopeful it will be a long-term partnership.

“We’re not gonna travel too much but some tournaments here and there probably something like 13 or 14 weeks on tour which is not a bad amount,” Medvedev said. “We didn’t fix anything. We didn’t say: ‘We’re gonna work for one year and see how it goes?’ We see how it goes and if tomorrow him or me says it doesn’t work out we stop.

“So far it has been working great. He tries some more things. If you take someone it’s not just to keep it the way it is, it’s to add some small details and we do try to add them. I’m sure it’s going to be interesting to see them during the matches I did somethings already in Dubai, but it takes time it’s going to take time. It’s interesting, I like it so far. Hopefully we can keep it together for quite a long time, but let’s see how it goes.”

The 39-year-old Simon won three of four career meetings against Medvedev, with the three victories coming on three different surfaces.

Former US Open champion Medvedev told Tennis Now’s Chris Oddo, Simon’s success against him was a starting point in pursuing the Frenchman as coach. Medvedev said Simon’s court sense, analytical skills and his ability to explain exactly why things are happening on court were all key components of the hire.

“The exact story [of how we partnered] I’m gonna keep it to myself, it's a bit personal,” Medvedev told TN's Chris Oddo. “At one moment I was thinking of adding someone to the team, first to replace Gilles Cervara when he’s not here on the tour And I was like why if i want to replace him i want to probably add someone who can help me to become a better player on the court.

“I thought about Gilles [Simon] because he somehow knew how to play me. That's The thing: I hated to play him. Because when I’m on the court he knew what I’m gonna do and he knew how to beat me which I feel like it’s not an easy task. I managed to beat a lot of players so I was like at least that’s the first thing.”

In their time working together, Medvedev said he’s impressed by how well Simon articulates what he intuits on court.

“He can tell what he did and we can work on it. So if someone plays exactly like him I’m going to know what to do and how I can do better in my weak spots,” Medvedev said. “So that was kind of the main thing about it. And for sure when we started working together I saw he understands many many things about tennis, which we—many tennis players—don’t think about it.

“I never thought about it myself as someone who thinks a lot on the court. But actually a lot of this is more feeling it, which is also kind of thinking, but more feeling it. He can explain with words why he sees one thing on the tennis court which is very tough and something probably most of tennis players cannot do.”

Photo credit: Matthew Calvis