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Report: Clinical Korda moves Medvedev aside

  • Ravi Ubha

Men's singles third round

Sebastian Korda dazzled with his all-court game to upset Daniil Medvedev at the Australian Open on Friday night. 

MORE: All the scores from Day 5 at AO 2023

It means both men's finalists from last year have now departed, after defending champion Rafael Nadal's exit in the second round

An opening set that lasted close to one-and-a-half hours proved pivotal to both players, with the AO 2018 junior winner grabbing it on the way to a 7-6(7) 6-3 7-6(4) win at Rod Laver Arena. 

Korda's dad, Petr, won the senior title in 1998 and his son continues to show that he, too, could one day become a Grand Slam winner. 

Maybe even this fortnight. 

"It was an unbelievable match," Korda said on court. "I kind of knew what I needed to do and stuck with it." 

And what was the game plan? "Just go for it," the 22-year-old added.  

The build-up

Medvedev didn't linger in his first two matches, downing a pair of players known for their physicality and tendency to stretch matches from the baseline – Marcos Giron and John Millman.

MORE: AO 2023 men's singles draw

While Medvedev fell in straight sets to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the Adelaide International earlier in January, Korda handed the nine-time Australian Open winner a sterner test – and in the final. 

He earned a match point on Djokovic's serve, well saved by the Serb, and would lose in three sets and more than three hours. 

Korda's form leading into the AO showed what was possible (Getty Images)

A player of his age pushing Djokovic to the brink should carry more weight than failing to close out the encounter. Korda had shown how dangerous he was against another member of the "Big Three," Nadal, last year in Indian Wells. 

He led his idol 5-2 in the final set at a time when Nadal started the season 15-0 – two months after his stunning comeback against Medvedev to cap AO 22.   

Story of the match

One could be forgiven for thinking that Korda's game is all about baseline power, since he stands at 196cm. Not the case. 

He serves and volleys, looks to move forward generally, owns a wonderful slice and can hit deft lobs. It was all on display, helping the Floridian grab a 4-1, two-break lead. 

If he couldn't win the point early against the supreme mover that is Medvedev, the world No.31 dug in, with rallies exceeding 25 shots. 

His squash-like forehand on the dead run – one of the shots of the tournament – helped him earn one of those breaks. 

From the outset, Korda had Medvedev scrambling to stay in touch (Getty Images)

But eighth-ranked Medvedev is not a Grand Slam winner for no reason. He tweaked his tactics, especially with the backhand, striking more down the lines rather than crosscourt. 

He deployed his own nifty slices and finished at net, besides flashing his terrific court coverage. Medvedev duly hit back for 4-4. Korda's difficulty closing out the set surfaced once more when he was broken at 5-4. 

Medvedev surged into a 6-5 lead with his strongest hold of the match, which seemed to spell trouble for Korda. But he hung on at deuce to reach the tiebreak. 

Korda proceeded to take the tiebreak into his own hands and never trailed. Of the 16 points, 14 were either a Korda winner, Korda forcing an error or producing an unforced error. He clinched his third set point by pummelling a return. 

Medvedev's Melbourne run came to an unusually early end (Getty Images)

Medvedev saw a break point evaporate to start the second, then was broken immediately.

Medvedev threatened an Andy Murray-like two-set comeback when he broke Korda for 4-4 in the third from 40-15 on serve. But in the ensuing tiebreak, Korda took control again by thumping a return and racing out to 4-0. Fittingly, the match concluded with a Korda winner – his 50th. 

Key stats

Dropping the first set at the Australian Open usually means trouble for Medvedev, and so it proved. He fell to 1-6, the lone victory coming last year in the quarterfinals when he saved a match point against Felix Auger-Aliassime.  

What this means for Korda

Korda has never beaten a top-five player, but this will feel like one given Medvedev is a Grand Slam winner and two-time reigning finalist at the Australian Open. 

The signs were there, given his performance in Adelaide. 

He has reached the fourth round at the Australian Open for the first time, matching efforts at Roland Garros in 2020 and Wimbledon in 2021. 

Korda often jokes that he is the worst-ranked player in his family. Mum and dad both played tennis, and his sisters Nelly and Jessica are world-class golfers. 

His next challenger is Hubert Hurkacz, the Pole who downed Korda in Korda's first final in Delray Beach in 2021. Hurkacz beat Denis Shapovalov in five sets earlier on Friday night. 

What's next for Medvedev?

Medvedev admitted that last year's loss to Nadal from two sets up badly affected him. Exiting to Korda – even if the latter is playing at a level well higher than his ranking – is sure to be another blow. 

His live ranking sits at No.12. If there is no change come tournament's end, Medvedev drops outside the top 10 for the first time since July 2019. 

Medvedev, though, will have chances to make up ground since he has few points to defend through the clay swing.