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Medvedev eases past Auger-Aliassime, sets up Borges clash

  • Ravi Ubha

Up in the wee hours of the morning in his earlier days – and not necessarily playing tennis – could have served Daniil Medvedev well as he looked to recover from a 3:40am ending at Australian Open 2024.

MORE: All the scores from Day 7 at AO 2024

“When I was young, until 21, I was going out, and it was not good for my tennis,” a smiling Medvedev told Australian Open winner Jim Courier.

“I was not playing as I was playing now, but maybe some practice without sleep sometimes helped me play today.

“Let’s hope it was like this.”

MORE: AO 2024 men's singles draw

The now 27-year-old spoke in the wake of Saturday night's straightforward 6-3 6-4 6-3 win over Felix Auger-Aliassime that sent him into the fourth round against not Grigor Dimitrov, but Nuno Borges instead. 

Medvedev needed to rally from two sets down in his previous outing against Emil Ruusuvuori. On a day, night and new day where wild matches were the norm at Melbourne Park as Thursday became Friday, Medvedev – at one stage two points from defeat – and the Finn participated in one of the latest finishes in tournament history.

BONUS: Download your copy of the Australian Open 2024 Official Program

Medvedev said he eventually got to bed at 7am, slept for five hours and then took it easy the rest of Friday. 

Medvedev Ruusuvuori Australian Open 2024
Medvedev had few dramas on Saturday after his second-round marathon

“I have this super ability, I can sleep where I want, whenever I want,” said the two-time Australian Open finalist. “Some players tell me that sometimes they cannot sleep for two or three hours.”

On one occasion back home in Europe, Medvedev recounted that after an airport run he went to bed at about 6am with his one-year-old daughter, Alisa, who was already asleep.

Such was his sleep that he didn’t notice Alisa later leaving the bed.  

“My wife does all the job at night,” Medvedev grinned.

And Medvedev did the job on court against Auger-Aliassime to improve to 7-0 against the Canadian, who beat Grand Slam champion Dominic Thiem in five hours in the first round. 

Medvedev indeed ensured there was little drama, two years after Auger-Aliassime held a match point in their AO 2022 quarterfinal.

Medvedev saved it with a huge serve.

Even though he wasn’t 100 per cent physically given what happened in his previous round – he estimated at being 80 per cent – Medvedev tallied nearly 80 per cent of his first-serve points.

Auger-Aliassime manufactured a mere two break points and faced seven himself. His lone real opportunity came in the second, when the 27th seed – undone by a knee injury in recent times – led 3-1.

Medvedev sizzled in the final set, completing his night’s work – this time – at about 9:30pm. 

“Happy to play some good level,” he said. “Happy about my game and looking forward to what’s next.”

Next is the 69th-ranked Borges, who joined Joao Sousa in becoming the lone players from Portugal to ever reach a Grand Slam fourth round.

Few would have forecast his 6-7(3) 6-4 6-2 7-6(8) win at Kia Arena over Dimitrov, who ended his title drought in Brisbane ahead of AO 2024 and had triumphed in 12 of his 13 previous matches. 

Borges himself only started to believe he could beat the 13th seed when he led by a break in the third.

“‘Holy crap, maybe I can actually win this,’” he thought. “Yeah, it wasn’t from the start. It’s like people say. Take one set at a time, one game at a time, one service game.

“Kept pushing through, testing my limits, testing his. I know in a tennis match anything can happen and I think today was a true example of that.”

Borges said his self-belief grew as he edged towards an improbable victory

A late bloomer who attended Mississippi State University, the 26-year-old had never exceeded the second round at a Grand Slam. Now, his ranking is set to climb from 69 to a career high of inside the top 50.

Dimitrov failed to serve out the fourth set, setting the stage for a dramatic tiebreak in front of Portuguese fans and supporters who waved Bulgarian flags.

The spectators chanted the players’ names, and the Portuguese fans were happier since Borges grabbed an early 4-1 lead. But tension arose, and a Borges double fault with the match on his racquet made it 5-5.

That’s when Dimitrov flashed his supreme athleticism. His defensive lob and retrieval off a smash kept him in the rally, before he chased a drop shot and finished with an overhead to lead 6-5. Kia Arena exploded.

Maybe still recovering, though, from that lung-busting exchange, the 32-year-old struck a double fault on set point.

His chance evaporated, and Borges dropped to the court when the match ended. 

“I still can’t believe it,” said Borges. “What a match. I didn’t expect to be here, second week of the Australian Open. Who would have thought?”