For more than two hours, Daniil Medvedev, a tennis suspense genius, walked on a fine wire that was about to break. Two sets down and downcast, he was at the mercy of Félix Auger-Aliassime but the 21-year-old Canadian missed the coup de grâce and ended up paying for it: 6-7(4), 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5 and 6-4, after 4h 42m. In a match Hitchcockiano, the Russian, winner of the last US Open and who is number two on the circuit and first seeded in Melbourne for a reason, managed to overcome an almost terminal circumstance and will reissue last year’s semifinal against the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, superior in turn daytime to Yannik Sinner (6-3, 6-4 and 6-2).
“He was playing better than me and I really didn’t know what to do,” he explained in the post-match interview with Jim Courier, after winning a two-set duel for the second time. “I know that people may not like what I am going to say, but I have asked myself: What would Novak do? He is one of the greatest, like Rafa and Roger”, he added while the Australian stands gave him a resounding buuuuuhhh. Continuing the epic line that Rafael Nadal marked the previous day – quoted with Matteo Berrettini in the early hours of Thursday to Friday – the Russian stayed alive in the tournament and finished outlining the crosses, appearing as the main threat.
The look in orbit of Auger-Aliassime (21 years old) when sealing the first two sets said it all. The Canadian, in a trance, not only dominated and held his own, but had managed to introduce Medvedev into a labyrinth from which the Russian could not escape. He has the number two (25) resources for almost everything, tools to turn the games like few others, but neither he proposed an answer nor did his rival loosen the least. Cold, cold, the one in Montreal. inverted hierarchy. Medvedev in tow, barely making the rubber and Auger-Aliassime dictating with his right hand, brush and shotgun at the same time. Strange atmosphere in the central, where the one from Moscow appeared for the first time in this edition.
Relatively steady on the path to these quarters, the Russian had barely dropped a couple of sets against Nick Kyrgios and Maxime Cressy; the rest, a happy sailing against Laaksonen and Van de Zandschulp, without real trouble despite that double concession, understandable against two punchers who can always scratch something on the fast track. He had not been in a real mess until he ran into the Canadian, who had been growing since the middle of last year – Wimbledon quarterfinals and US Open semifinals – and in Melbourne he has made another growth spurt. The roles were reversed: Aliassime controlled like a veteran and Medvedev countered with the insecurities of the upstart.
A style against the conventions
Even so, the feeling floated that, no matter how ugly the situation had made the Muscovite, at one time or another he would raise the level and that the acceleration would come. Always hide one last card. Although he responded immediately to the break of the first set, the Canadian was firm in the tie break and then took the second bite. However, later, with the water practically up to his neck, Medvedev found oxygen with the arrival of the rain. Up 2-1, the judge ordered the deck closed and after the break, the more aggressive Russian changed his pace and balanced. In matters of survival, of getting out of the cage, he handles a considerable manual.
His unorthodox pattern misleads. That robotic way of raising the elbow when hitting, those squash slaps, that sometimes orthopedic stride. Everything is weird, everything is abnormal. A style far removed from the academic. Medvedev defies all tennis conventions, but from the trenches and in situations of dire need, he moves like a fish to water. He is another master of escapism.
With 4-4 in the fourth set, he was unable to consolidate the option of break, but he did do it with 6-5, after having deprived Aliassime –a show at service and in the direction of strokes – of a match ball. Checkmate arrived. Always cunning, he led the pulse exactly where he wanted it. Impervious until then, the Canadian was assailed by doubts and paid for the logical vertigo of seeing himself so close and, suddenly, so far away.
His adversary slammed the door triple at the start of the final set –15-40, and another opportunity in the tiebreaker of the game– and then returned to the charge. Impossible lifts and angles. From silence to roars. Devilish parallel backhand. Medvedev relaxed, freed himself and grew bigger.
He abandoned the apathetic expression of the first two hours, he recovered the sharpness in his eyes, that look so typical of him as a fictional serial killer. Putting the lock on, he denied an attempt by Aliassime, with 4-3 in his favor, and aborted two more in the final stretch to achieve a pass to the semifinals. On quicksand, the Canadian never gave up; however, it collided with the great pediment. Medvedev always throws one last ordago.
Everything happened after Tsitsipas’ solid victory against Sinner, who is still resisting the final ramps of the big tournaments, and the women’s team also set up the penultimate season: the American Danielle Collins (7-5 and 6-1 to Alizé Cornet) will face the Polish Iga Swiatek (4-6, 7-6(2) and 6-3 Kaia Kanepi) tomorrow (around 11.30, Eurosport); previously (9.30), the program offers the crossing between Ashleigh Barty and Madison Keys.