Medvedev turns the screws on Tiafoe

  • Alex Sharp

Daniil Medvedev was forced to utilise his full artillery on Tuesday night, recording 42 winners to dispatch a determined Frances Tiafoe 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-2 in an enthralling encounter at Rod Laver Arena.

The US Open finalist arrived at Melbourne Park as the fourth seed, and Tuesday night’s clash with Tiafoe was a true box office first-round encounter that stood out from the draw ceremony. 

Tiafoe reached the Melbourne quarterfinals last year, but couldn’t conjure the consistency to take down the Russian, who advances to face Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez. 

MORE: All the results from Day 2 in Melbourne

“It was a really tough match, a little bit up and down from both of us,” said Medvedev, who lost in the fourth round last Australian Open to eventual champion Novak Djokovic. 

“I’m really happy to win because the first round is never easy. 

“Especially playing Frances, he made the quarters last year, it was a tricky one. A lot of times I thought I won the point already, but he made amazing shots. 

“Many points in the match I felt ‘Ok, I’ve got the momentum, I need to prolong it, make a further step’, and straight away he kept coming back. 

“I think I could do many things better, but he made me play better. For the first round it’s a big win, so I’m really happy to finally get the win.” 

Medvedev aced a stern first-round test to advance

The first set was a microcosm of how Medvedev rocketed up the rankings in 2019, where he reached a major final at the US Open and lifted four titles. 

Medvedev adapted instantly to the swirling windy conditions inside Rod Laver Arena, dragging Tiafoe from side to side. The Russian is the master of absorbing pace and then catapulting a flat groundstroke down the line. 

The American’s patience was running out in the rallies as the No.4 seed chalked up a quick-fire 4-1 lead. 

‘I think I could do many things better, but he made me play better. For the first round it’s a big win’
Daniil Medvedev

Tiafoe began to make inroads with all-out attack returns. One backhand response from shoulder height fizzed down the line, and he erased one of the breaks before yelping a defiant “come on.” 

However, at 4-3, Medvedev illustrated his remarkable resistance at the net. He managed to retrieve four shots bludgeoned at him by the world No.50, with a final reaction volley posting 5-3 on the scoreboard. 

Cupping his ears, cajoling the crowd into support, the US Open finalist went onto close out the set. 

Locked at 2-2 in the second set, Tiafoe was finally rewarded for his persistence and arrowed a forehand pass down the line to break. The momentum changed hands, but the American was connecting, finding more punch and pop on his strokes. 

Breaking to love at 4-4, Tiafoe discarded any passive play, stepping past the baseline to dictate and level the match. 

Tiafoe had moments of magic, but Medvedev was too consistent

Into the third set and Medvedev reset, prevailing in two mammoth games to carve out a 3-0 advantage. Once again the amiable American bounced back, a sumptuous pick-up half-volley at his toes igniting the break back. 

Tiafoe, having never defeated a top-five player, was warming to the task, as a no-look backhand volley earned 3-3, with a tiebreak increasingly likely. 

Medvedev had other ideas, pouncing at 5-4 to break to love. The last point saw the 23-year-old nudging a last-ditch shot angled towards the tramlines by the umpire's chair. 

The fourth seed let out an almighty roar, and with the third set in the bag, Medvedev stepped up a level and nullified the threat from the Next Gen American to move on in Melbourne.