From The Brink Of Defeat, Medvedev Pulls Off A Big Win In Melbourne

Daniil Medvedev (photo: Australian Open video)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 26, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

For just the second time in his career, Daniil Medvedev pulled victory from the jaws of defeat in a five-set match, in which he trailed two sets to love. What a Wednesday evening, what an early-Thursday morning scene on Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open.

Medvedev’s 6-7 (4), 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-4 quarterfinal victory over Felix Auger-Aliassime had everything. It had a Grand Slam champion under pressure, who was being outplayed by a younger opponent – who somehow figured things out during a rain delay that forced the closure of the roof – and by the end of the match Medvedev miraculously won. Arguably, it was the best and most exciting match of the young 2022 season.

Medvedev’s late-night reward is he’s still in the chase for his second major after advancing to Friday’s semifinal round with his 50th victory in a major.

About an hour and 15 minutes after Medvedev saved match point on serve in the fourth set at 4-5 (30-40) with his fastest serve of the night, he was the one who was raising his arms in celebration. The agonizing look of defeat on Auger-Aliassime spoke volumes, too. It was his fourth straight loss to Medvedev and he had lost in similar fashion last year to another Russian, Aslan Karatsev, in the fourth round at Melbourne, after being ahead two-sets-to-love.

The Medvedev/Auger-Aliassime tussle was a match that either could have won. Instead, only Medvedev will move on and play No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in Friday’s second semifinal match.

Looking back, by the time the quarterfinal between Russia’s Medvedev and Auger-Aliassime of Canada finished, the match clock had reached four hours and 42 minutes. It was 12:29 a.m. in real time in Melbourne. The crowd was alive and buzzing as they applauded both the winner and the loser.

When Medvedev was asked afterward how he won, he smiled and said: “I have no idea. …

“I was not playing my best and Felix was playing unbelievably,” a happy and wound-up Medvedev admitted to Jim Courier during his on-court interview. “[He was] serving unbelievably, he was all over me, to be honest. All over the place. did not really know what to do, but I told myself, ‘What would Novak do?’” Novak as in Novak Djokovic, the 20-time Grand Slam champion and last year’s Australian Open champion.

“What came to my mind is he’s one of the greatest – he and Rafa and Roger won so many matches like this – and I thought ‘I am going to make him work and fight until the last point.’ It worked. I managed to raise my level, especially during the tie break. When they closed the roof, I felt the momentum change in my game, that I could hit through the court better. I just started playing better.”

Medvedev fired 15 aces and hit 49 winners to overcome 53 unforced errors. He saved nine of 11 break points he faced while breaking Auger-Aliassime’s serve three times in five tries. There was plenty of action on both sides of the net as Medvedev won 30 of 41 net points and Auger-Aliassime countered with 41 out of 48 at the net. Incredibly, each player won 182 total points.

While it was the second time that Medvedev had recovered from an 0-2 deficit in sets – he did it last year in a Grand Slam setting against Marin Cilic at Wimbledon – it was the first time this tournament that a player had come from two-sets-to-love down to garner a victory.

Always a great conversationalist – especially after a big win – Medvedev shared a funny story during his on-court interview that kept everyone loose and happy. He said: “It is funny because with my locker bag I come with lots of clothes just in case – six t-shirts, two pairs of shoes, whatever. It is full and tough to even zip up, but now it is empty. So, that is how this match was.”

Medvedev may have been short on clothes at the end, but he still managed to find the will to win by the end. Now, he’s on to the semifinals and a rematch of last year’s semifinal with Tsitsipas once again as his opponent. Medvedev won that day 6-4, 6-2, 7-5, which gave him a 20-match winning streak and broke a seven-match winning streak that belonged to Tsitsipas.

Looking ahead, Medvedev was asked how he would manage his recovery. He said emphatically: “Look, it’s the semifinals of a Grand Slam, so even if I’m in the worse shape of my life, I’m going to fight my best and try to make my opponent suffer.

“We’ve already had a lot of tough matches, a few of them I won, a few of them he won. Last year I managed to play [against Tsitsipas] pretty well. So, I just hope I’m going to serve well and show my best tennis and we can have a good match.”

Tsitsipas earns third AO semifinal berth

Earlier, World No. 4 and fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas remained perfect in quarterfinal matches at the majors – he’s now 5-0 – after his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 11 seed Jannik Sinner. In a matchup of Top 10 European stars, Tsitsipas from Greece has now reached the final four in Melbourne for the third time in the past four years.

“Jannik is a very good player,” Tsitsipas said during his on-court interview. “So I tried to focus on my best shots and it paid off more than I thought.”

The 20-year-old Sinner was trying to become the youngest man to reach the Australian Open semifinals since Andy Roddick in 2003. Sinner is a day younger than Tsitsipas was when he reached his first major semifinal in 2019.

Rain began to fall early in the second set and the roof over Rod Laver Arena was closed. While sometimes a stoppage in play can affect the momentum of match, this time it didn’t really matter. Tsitsipas was in control throughout the two-hour and six-minute quarterfinal.

“It is part of the game,” Tstitsipas said. “I knew I was heading towards the right direction with the game I managed to create from the start of the match. The conditions changed when the roof was closed, slightly faster. I tried to adapt to these new conditions and it just worked.”

Tsitsipas won 79 percent (42 of 53) of his first-serve points and overcame 26 unforced errors by hitting 23 winners. He didn’t face any break points while going four-for-four on break-point conversions against the World No 10 from Italy. The victory improve Tsitsipas’s career head-to-head against Sinner to 3-1.

“I think my humility helped a lot today,” Tsitsipas admitted. “I knew I was going on court facing a very good player. So, I stayed intact and i tried to focus on my best shots and kid of paid off more than I thought.

“I’m very, very happy with how I served, the way I came in, involved my tactics a lot in today’s match structure. Having the crowd support is truly unbelievable.”

Now, Tsitsipas will head into Friday evening’s semifinal against Daniil Medvedev hoping to improve upon his 2-6 lifetime win-loss record against the World No. 2. The other men’s semifinal will match World No. 5 and sixth seed Rafael Nadal of Spain against World No. 7 and seventh seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy. Nadal, who won the Australian Open title in 2009, is the only past champion remaining in the men’s draw.

Swiatek rallies against Kanepi to reach first AO semifinal

No. 7 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland rallied from a set and a break down to beat giant-slaying Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3, to reach her first Australian Open semifinal Wednesday afternoon on Rod Laver Arena.

In a three-hour, 1-minute match that was Swiatek’s longest of her young career – and the second-longest women’s match of this Melbourne fortnight – the 20-year-old from Warsaw improved to 5-0 in three-set matches at Grand Slams in which she lost the first set.

Swiatek’s triumph advanced her to face No. 27 seed Danielle Collins of the United States, who earlier in the day ended the Cinderella run of No. 61 Alizé Cornet of France, 7-5, 6-1, in an 88-minute match on Rod Laver Arena. Cornet, 32, had reached her first major quarterfinal in her 63rd career Grand Slam main draw, but Collins won 90 percent (28 of 31) of her first-serve points, hit 23 winners and broke Cornet four times. She outpointed the Frenchwoman 70-53 and lost her serve just once, in the opening set.

Meanwhile, after her victory, the 20-year-old Swiatek said she was “pretty proud of myself, especially after matches like that, because coming back from losing the first set it’s a new thing for me. Being in the semifinals is great.

“I’m proud of myself that I can, I’m still able to, find solutions and actually think more on court on what to change because before it’s wasn’t that clear for me. I feel like it’s part of the work that we have been doing with [sports psychologist] Daria [Abramowicz] to control my emotions and actually focus on finding solutions.”

The 36-year-old Kanepi’s defeat dropped her career record in Grand Slam quarterfinals to 0-7. Despite losing to Swiatek, with earlier wins over Angelique Kerber and Aryna Sabalenka to reach the final eight, the former World No. 15 who began the tournament ranked 115th will return to the Top 65.

Swiatek was asked how she would approach her semifinal against Collins. She said: “I will approach it the same as any other match, really. I have played with some heavy hitters on this tournament already. So, I feel like I’m feeling their game on my racquet pretty well. …

“For sure, it’s going to be hard, and she’s in gareat shape. You can see that, and really like confident. But I also feel that way. I just hope it’s going to be a good match.”

Around Melbourne Park

Wednesday’s Australian Open results

Thursday’s Australian Open order of play

By the numbers

• Wednesday’s Day 10 attendance at Melbourne Park reached 21,108.

Daniil Medvedev has now advanced to the semifinals at the Australian Open twice, after he reached the championship match last year (losing to Novak Djokovic). He’s the third Russian man, after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin, to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open multiple times.

“Quotable …”

“Last time I was here in the semifinal, I had never done that before. I’ve made some deeper runs in tournaments since then. Hopefully, I can carry the confidence that I’ve gained over the last couple [of] years and be able to use that to my advantage.”

Danielle Collins of the United States, reflecting upon her 2019 semifinal run at the Australian Open during her post-match press conference after beating Alizé Cornet Wednesday