Medvedev snares all-Russian affair to make last four

  • Gillian Tan

Daniil Medvedev has reached his first Australian Open semifinal, the Russian joining countryman Aslan Karatsev in the last four after dispatching compatriot Andrey Rublev 7-5 6-3 6-2 in their high-stakes clash on Wednesday.

“We had some unbelievable rallies and after the point it’s tough to breathe … I think I’m one of the few players to make Andrey that tired and I’m quite happy about it,” said Medvedev, after winning his 19th consecutive match. 

Playing a friend is “never easy,” he acknowledged. 

MORE: Medvedev vs Rublev match stats

“I know how to neutralise his amazing big shots [and] that was definitely one of the best matches I played lately, not only here but even last year. This match is really unbelievable because he was playing really good, I managed to beat him in three sets even without a tiebreak, and I’m really happy about it.”

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Once Medvedev got his teeth into the match, victory looked inevitable

Medvedev, who has never lost to Rublev in four meetings, created the first break point of the match in the fourth game, and while he was unable to convert, another opportunity was just moments away, the 23-year-old Rublev capitulating in his next service game. 

Unable to withstand a relentless attack from Medvedev, the powerful right-hander succumbed to break point when his attempted return of a scorching forehand from the elder Russian found the net. Unexpectedly, a double fault from the fourth seed in the next game put the set back on serve at 3-4. As Rublev served at 5-6, another explosive return game from Medvedev enabled him to break to love and clinch the opening set.

Tension began building through the second set, reaching a crescendo in the sixth game. Rublev, fatigued enough to take a quick seat courtside after winning a breathtaking 43-shot rally, saved break point with an ace to secure a crucial hold for 3-3. 

In the next game, Medvedev staved off three break points of his own, with an interjection of “Allez!” in his French coach Gilles Cervara’s native tongue. Emboldened, the more experienced of the duo upped the ante, highlighted by a more audible grunt. Medvedev finally seized an opportunity to break Rublev for 5-3 before holding to love with an ace and sealing a two-set lead.

Brutal, lengthy rallies abounded as a dominant Medvedev broke in the opening game of the third. Rublev’s body language told a tale, perhaps acknowledging his campaign to reach the final four of a Grand Slam for the first time may be nearing an end. 

A warm day and a red-hot opponent took their toll on Rublev

After bending over and resting on his racquet between points, the fading seventh seed sent a backhand wide to give up another break. Serving for the match at 5-2, Medvedev was untroubled, perfectly placing an inside-out forehand to close out match point, sealing the victory in two hours and five minutes. 

Medvedev won 80 per cent of first serves and struck 14 aces to Rublev’s eight in a display so ruthless that commentator Robbie Koenig described him “as tough as a woodpecker’s lips.”

“After the point it’s tough to breathe … I think I’m one of the few players to make Andrey that tired, and I’m quite happy about it.”
Daniil Medvedev

The victory makes Medvedev, who turned 25 last week, only the fifth Russian man to reach the Australian Open semifinals in the Open Era behind Aleksandar Metreveli (1972), Yevgeny Kafelnikov (1999, 2000), Marat Safin (2002, 2004, 2005) and Karatsev. 

Notably, it’s only the third time a pair of Russian men have advanced to the semifinals of a major, with the two earlier occasions both occurring at the US Open in 2001 (Kafelnikov and Safin) and 2006 (Mikhail Youzhny and Nikolay Davydenko).

“I’m so happy for Aslan, he made history,” said Medvedev who is now three from three at major quarterfinals. 

“If we’ll have a Russian final, it’s just gonna be a dream come true but we’re also gonna have quite tough matches and tough opponents.”

The Russian is eyeing a 12th-straight top-10 win when he next meets either second seed Rafael Nadal or fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday for a place in Sunday’s final.

Medvedev said he’d be ordering room service and tuning into the last blockbuster men’s quarterfinal. 

“Really happy that I can watch such a match,” grinned the fourth seed. 

“[It’s] not going to be easy no matter who wins.”