26 January 2022

Title favourite Daniil Medvedev survives major scare to book semi-final spot

26 January 2022

Daniil Medvedev saved a match point and recovered from two sets to love down to defeat Felix Auger-Aliassime and reach his fifth grand slam semi-final at the Australian Open.

Another night of high drama at Melbourne Park saw the title favourite pushed to the brink before turning the match around to win 6-7 (4) 3-6 7-6 (2) 7-5 6-4 and set up a rematch of last year’s semi-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“I was not playing my best and Felix was playing unbelievable, serving unbelievable,” said Medvedev.

“I didn’t really know what to do. I don’t know if you’re going to like this but I told myself, ‘What would Novak do?’ What came into my mind, I just thought, ‘OK, I’m going to make him work. If he wants to win it, he’s going to have to fight until the last point’. I managed to raise my level.”

Medvedev had worn the mantle of favourite well following Novak Djokovic’s deportation but it was clear from the start of this match that the US Open champion had his work cut out.

Auger-Aliassime, 21, has begun 2022 with a new steel, helping Canada to the ATP Cup title despite a heavy defeat against Medvedev in the semi-finals.

Daniil Medvedev, left, and Felix Auger-Aliassime share words at the net (Tertius Pickard/AP) (AP)

He matched Medvedev from the back of the court, putting doubt into the mind of the second seed during a series of lengthy exchanges, and two double faults in the first-set tie-break proved costly.

Medvedev looked to his box in exasperation while Auger-Aliassime, who lost in straight sets to the Russian in the last four in New York, pressed home his advantage in the second set and looked for a break in the third.

Medvedev held on, though, and, after an ill-timed rain break to close the roof at 2-1 in the tie-break, capitalised on some loose play from his opponent to force a fourth set.

Felix Auger-Aliassime plays a shot between his legs (Tertius Pickard/AP) (AP)

The contest remained on a knife edge, and a double fault from Medvedev brought up a match point for ninth seed Auger-Aliassime in the 10th game.

It disappeared in the flash of a big serve, and Medvedev broke in the next game and again early in the decider. Still it was not straightforward as Medvedev wobbled in sight of the line, but his serve came to his rescue again as he clinched victory after four hours and 42 minutes.

On Friday’s semi-final, he added: “It’s the semi-final of a grand slam, so even if I’m in the worst shape of my life I’m going to fight like hell.”

Earlier, Tsitsipas produced his best performance of the tournament to defeat Jannik Sinner in straight sets.

Tsitsipas came into the event with uncertainty over his form and fitness following elbow surgery and had survived some tight matches, especially his fourth-round victory over Taylor Fritz.

He revealed afterwards that his surgeon did not expect him to be fit enough to play in the tournament, but the difficulties may just have given him an extra edge.

“My injuries have taught me a lot of things,” said the fourth seed. “My injuries have taught me how to wait and be patient and prepare better, take the time to reflect and take the time to reconsider certain things in life.

“Being in the position of being privileged where you get to have a great set-up where you can go back and practise every single day and have people that work with you and have people that care for you is something that is underestimated.”

Young Italian Sinner, seeded 11th, was expected to provide Tsitsipas with his biggest challenge of the fortnight, but the Greek was in total control from the start and eased to a 6-3 6-4 6-2 victory.

Tsitsipas broke serve in Sinner’s first service game and needed only two hours and six minutes to wrap up the win, shrugging off a brief rain delay while the roof was shut.

It is the third time in three years that the 23-year-old has made the last four here and he will look to emulate his run at the French Open last summer, when he reached his first slam final before losing to Djokovic.

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