MELBOURNE, Australia – Top seed Daniil Medvedev battled back from two sets down and saved a match point against Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime to reach the Australian Open semifinals with a 6-7(4), 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5, 6-4 victory on Wednesday, January 26.
The 25-year-old Russian had his back firmly up against the wall for much of an absorbing contest as Auger-Aliassime produced some stunning tennis on Rod Laver Arena.
But the world No. 2 simply refused to lie down as he overturned a two-set deficit for only the second time in his career to set up a Friday semifinal against Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, whom he beat at the same stage a year ago.
It was the kind of resilience absent nine-time champion Novak Djokovic has trademarked and Medvedev, the reigning US Open champion, said he had taken inspiration from the Serbian to get out of trouble.
“At two sets down I was not playing my best and Felix was playing unbelievable, serving unbelievable, he was all over me to be honest. I didn’t know what to do so I told myself ‘what would Novak do?'” Medvedev said on court, prompting some boos.
“What came to mind, was that I thought if Felix wants to win it he will have to fight for the last point.
“I managed to raise my level and when they closed the roof I felt the momentum and started serving better.”
Ninth seed Auger-Aliassime, 21, was the dominant player in the first set and despite a wobble when serving at 6-5 he won a tiebreak courtesy of some Medvedev double-faults the Russian later blamed on the sweaty conditions.
Serving beautifully and playing with composure and precision from the back of the court, Auger-Aliassime cruised through the second set with a single break with Medvedev looking subdued.
Auger-Aliassime was one set away from a first career win against the Russian and a place in his second Grand Slam semifinal, but the night was still young.
Medvedev hung tough towards end of the third set as Auger-Aliassime sensed victory but he managed to force a tiebreak and closed it out after a shower caused the roof to be closed.
Serve dominated the fourth set but in the 10th game Medvedev coughed up a double-fault to hand his opponent a match point.
Medvedev barely blinked though and escaped with some powerful serving. He then pounced in the next game to break serve as Auger-Aliassime sent a forehand wide, before holding his own to extend the match into a decider.
With the match moving into its fifth hour, Medvedev finally seized control with an early break of serve but Auger-Aliassime did not crumble.
The Canadian earned a break back point trailing 4-3 but Medvedev snatched away the opportunity with a timely ace and then had Medvedev down 15-40 as the Russian served at 5-4.
Medvedev dialed up his inner Novak once again, however, reeling off the next four points to claim an epic victory after 4 hours and 42 minutes.
Tsitsipas dances into semis with Sinner thrashing
After a phenomenal performance against Jannik Sinner on Wednesday, Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas feels as though he is in the zone to produce something special at the 2022 Australian Open.
The fourth seed credited his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 defeat of the Italian in just over two hours on Rod Laver Arena to adopting a more humble approach to tennis after some setbacks.
Injuries, including the elbow problem that threatened his participation in Melbourne this year, and difficult defeats had taught him the importance of remaining grounded.
“You know when you’re dancing and when you’re doing well, you tend to glorify yourself, as if you are untouchable,” he told reporters.
“It is important, in that process, to remain on the ground and to remind yourself that you are a human being who is aiming for something great, and you’re headed towards that direction and you’re doing everything possible in order to achieve that greatness.
“Perfection doesn’t exist, but close to perfection (does), and that’s what I meant by that.”
His tennis in the quarterfinal was not perfect, but he did manage to leave a rival tipped to be a future Grand Slam winner helpless at times.
Tsitsipas served particularly well, which enabled him to dictate a majority of points with his powerful forehand.
He also made his mark early in each set with a service break, converting all four opportunities on the Sinner serve while never troubled on his own delivery.
“I feel like I’m in the zone. I have no plans of getting out of it. It’s part of my game,” Tsitsipas said. “So far it has been the most consistent and the best match I’ve had in the tournament.”
Tsitsipas is hoping it will be third time lucky for him in an Australian Open semifinal.
After defeating Roger Federer on the way to a semifinal in 2019, he found Rafa Nadal too strong.
Last February he defeated Nadal in the quarterfinals after dropping the first two sets, but was beaten by Daniil Medvedev in his next match.
After becoming the first Greek to reach the final of a Grand Slam at Roland Garros, where he fell to Novak Djokovic, Tsitsipas struggled for his best form for the remainder of 2021.
He fell in the first round at Wimbledon, was beaten in the third rounds at the Tokyo Olympics and the US Open and eventually underwent a medical procedure on his elbow injury.
In an on-court interview, Tsitsipas said he was advised that it was unlikely he would be able to compete in Melbourne as a result.
Instead he now stands just two wins away from a first major title.
“I am pretty sure my doctor is watching right now. He has been sending me texts after every single game,” he said.
“He said, ‘I don’t expect to see you playing in Australia’. But I proved him wrong. I am happy I have found the right man to bring me back even stronger.” – Rappler.com