© Reuters. Australian Open
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Russian Daniil Medvedev lived up to Novak Djokovic’s praise as a “man to hit” at the Australian Open when he reached his first final with an impressive 6-4: 6-2: 7-5 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas got on at Melbourne Park on Friday.
Fiery Medvedev wrapped the fifth Greek seed in a blanket under the lights of the Rod Laver Arena and captured his 20th straight win to end Djokovic’s dynasty in Sunday’s playoff.
The fourth seed, Medvedev, served like a machine until it was broken in the third set, which resurrected Greek fans on the terraces when Tsitsipas took a 5-4 lead.
But the Russian silenced the crowd with the crucial break in Game 11, then sealed a dominant win as he rushed forward at the match point to punch a booming forehand into the corner.
“I’m happy to be able to keep my nerve because I still haven’t fired that many bad shots,” said Medvedev in court about his anxious third sentence.
“So happy that I managed to keep my calm.
“I was just trying to hit aces and winners or get the ball into the field. That’s the only way to do it.”
“That’s how I stayed in the match.”
World number 1 Djokovic, who beat another Russian in qualifying against Aslan Karatsev, will be an excellent opponent for Medvedev in his second Grand Slam final.
The Serbian Djokovic is applying for a ninth Australian Open title and has never lost a final in Melbourne.
For Tsitsipas, the defeat wasn’t quite as bitter as his demolition in the 2019 semi-finals by Rafa Nadal when he left Melbourne Park in shock.
Still, he paid the price for another slow start, with Medvedev doing what Nadal couldn’t in his five-time quarter-final defeat by Tsitsipas that week – and slamming the door on the Greek’s revival.
“I’m sure he was tired after the Rafa game,” said Medvedev. “I saw that once I showed him around the pitch it wasn’t easy for him … That immediately became my strategy.”
After a cage-like start on a sultry evening at Rod Laver Arena, Medvedev stormed through Tsitsipas’ defense to break in game five.
Tsitsipas fought for contact and saved three set points before the Russian hit an ace on the ‘T’ to seal it.
Arms outstretched, Medvedev soaked up whatever Tsitsipas could throw at him and after a couple of rallies fired a sizzling forehand winner to break the Greek and take a 2-1 lead in the second set.
Tsitsipas angrily retreated into his chair and slammed a bottle of water onto the court, causing a squadron of towel-ridden ball kids to mop up the spilled material.
Medvedev marched on, increasing three breakpoints at 4-2, and with a touch of arrogance shot down the line to break.
The Russian soon strolled back to his chair two sets after hitting an ace on the first of three set points.
Tsitsipas’ fights became awkward for some people in the crowd and a few mocking noises rang out when he was broken in the opening game of the third.
Medvedev took a 3-1 lead and drove to the finish line until his serve inexplicably wavered.
He made a double mistake to give away breakpoints and dropped the serve with a wild forehand, bringing the crowd to life.
A rejuvenated Tsitsipas shot back when Medvedev’s ground missiles failed.
While the Russian’s serve had kept Tsitsipas in check, it was his return that proved crucial when he broke the Greeks 5-5.
After sending a flaming backhand shot on the line, Medvedev waved his arms at the pro-Tsitsipas crowd and was happy to play the bad guy in an echo of his run to the 2019 US Open final.
He finished the match with a serve of 208 km / h, which Tsitsipas could barely make, allowing Medvedev to jog forward and fire the victorious forehand.
Djokovic, the real “man to hit” in Melbourne Park, awaits you.