Medvedev into Australian Open final against Sinner
John Salvado |
Russian ice-man Daniil Medvedev has stormed back from two sets down to break the heart of Alexander Zverev and book a spot in his third Australian Open final.
The No.3 seed will chase his second major title on Sunday against rising Italian superstar Jannik Sinner, who earlier on Friday ended super Serb Novak Djokovic’s perfect 10-from-10 semi-final record at Melbourne Park with a commanding four-set win.
With Zverev in early command, Medvedev looked on the verge of a straight-sets exit when he dropped the opening two sets of the night semi-final on Rod Laver Arena.
But the 27-year-old hung tough to win the next two sets in tiebreaks as Zverev, who complained he’s been suffering from sickness, began to wilt and the Russian dominated the decider to triumph 5-7 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) 6-3.
“I’ve never made it that tough before and I’m happy about it,” said Medvedev.
“Before, my statistics in five-set matches were not good.
“Physically and mentally it’s tough, five sets.
“Many times (in the past) in the fifth, I was not strong enough.
“So I’m happy.”
Medvedev has played in five previous major finals, but has only won one of them – a straight-sets victory over Djokovic at the 2021 US Open.
The first set on Friday night was a topsy-turvy affair, with Zverev bolting out of the blocks with two early breaks of serve to lead 4-1.
Medvedev got both breaks back, only for the German to clinch the opener in a dramatic 12th game.
The German extended his domination at the net in the second set, breaking Medvedev’s serve in the fifth and ninth games to take a stranglehold.
Medvedev had been taken to five sets in two of his previous five matches at Melbourne Park – a second-round tussle against Emil Ruusuvuori which finished at 3.39am and his quarter-final against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz.
But, ultimately, he won the gruelling physical battle over more than four-and-a-quarter hours, as Zverev revealed afterwards: “I didn’t feel 100 per cent physically.
“End of the second set I started to lose energy. I am a bit sick. I got a bit sick after the (Carlos) Alcaraz match with a bit of fever and stuff like that, so that didn’t help the recovery – and I did play quite a lot.
“Against him, it’s impossible to play when you’re not 100 per cent physically, because he’s literally someone that really doesn’t give you anything.”
There had been bad blood between the pair in the past and it threatened to boil over again late in the third set when the Russian demanded to see a replay of a close line call in Zverev’s favour.
“He knows the ball was inside the line,” Zverev complained to chair umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore.
“He’s doing a show again.”
The Russian then benefited from a large slice of luck in the fourth-set tiebreaker when a mis-hit return off the frame dropped in, gifting him a set point.
Medvedev claimed the crucial break in the fifth game of the decider after Zverev missed a straightforward volley to go down 15-40 and then got a code violation for twice smashing his racquet into the net in frustration.
Now dominant, Medvedev broke again in the ninth game to close the match out in four hours and 18 minutes.
“At one moment in the third set, I felt like I was tired physically and looking at him I didn’t feel it,” said Medvedev.
“So I was like actually I cannot run any more for 40-shot rallies, so I’m like ‘OK, let’s go more aggressive’.
“And if it doesn’t work out, I tried.
“I tried what I felt would work and it started working.
“I started to make some good shots, better shots that I didn’t do before.
“Started to serve much better, put a lot of pressure on my serve, and then tiebreaks were unbelievable.”
The only other time Zverev had lost a five-setter from two sets up was the 2020 US Open final to Dominic Thiem.AAP