In the short term, Daniil Medvedev’s 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas proved to be a disappointingly drama-free affair. But at least it throws up the possibility of a finely balanced final on Sunday morning.
Had Medvedev been forced to go to the well in a lengthy semi-final, it would have been hard to see him recovering in time to take on Novak Djokovic – the master of Melbourne Park – in the trophy match. Especially as the curious schedule of the Australian Open gives Djokovic an extra day of rest and preparation.
But after what has been a strikingly efficient run through the draw – with only one match that lasted more than 2hr 10min – Medvedev should still have plenty of fuel to last him through tennis’s second-most daunting challenge; the first being Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.
Neither will he go in with a hangdog attitude, for Medvedev’s semi-final success means that he has now won 20 matches in a row, of which 12 have come against top-10 opposition. In a magical run starting from last year’s indoor season, he has taken out everyone but Roger Federer, who isn’t bothering with pandemic tennis.
Such is Medvedev’s form, in fact, that Djokovic isn’t even being listed as the favourite for tomorrow’s match. As far as the odds-makers are concerned, this one is a coin flip.
20. In. A. Row.
✅ De Minaur
✅ Carballes Baena
✅ Tsitsipas#AusOpen pic.twitter.com/Pwm9RGvnJf
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 19, 2021
During the on-court interview after the semi-final, Medvedev threw a little shade in Djokovic’s direction. “He’s never lost in eight times in the final here. It’s him who has all the pressure. Getting to [catch up with] Roger, Rafa, in the grand slams. He has, for sure, more experience, but more things to lose than me.”
Meanwhile, Djokovic was not above flexing his own muscles, either. Speaking to Eurosport’s Mats Wilander, he said “There has been a lot of talk about the new generations coming and taking over from the three of us, but realistically that isn’t happening still. With my respect to all the other guys, they still have a lot of work to do. I’m not going to stand here and hand it over to them. I am going to make them work their a--- off for it."
Medvedev is a gangling giant who seems to have more than the usual quota of knees and elbows. Despite being 6ft6in tall – a statistic usually associated with immobility – he covers the court uncannily well, with the long-limbed strides of a praying mantis.
One of the few notable moments in a subdued semi-final came when he broke serve in the penultimate game with an almost impossible backhand pass, catching up with the ball when it was only inches from the ground, and somehow whipping it up the line for a winner.
“I wouldn't be surprised to see Daniil win the tournament,” said Tsitsipas afterwards. “But then when I played Rafa here two years ago, I was 100 per cent sure he was gonna win the tournament. And I ended up being wrong.
“Who knows? Djokovic is playing well too. Look, I'm not a betting website. Might be Medvedev, would be good for him, good for tennis, spice it up a little bit.”
How it unfolded
Australian Open finals
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Saturday morning - Naomi Osaka vs Jennifer Brady.
Sunday morning - Novak Djokovic vs Daniil Medvedev.
"Definitely not easy because we saw the (Tsitsipas) match with Rafa was the same, so I got a little bit scared and tight because it is a semi-final of a Slam. It was not easy but I am happy I managed to turn my game on, especially in tight moments on my serve and I am really happy to be in the final.
"I just tried to hit aces and winners, get the ball in the court, that's the only way to do it. I am happy to manage to keep my nerves, I didn't make too many bad choices apart from the game I got broken.
"I think sure he was tired after the match with Rafa, during today's match I saw as soon as I was moving him around the court it was into easy so that became my strategy straight away."
Medvedev streak goes on
With that win, Medvedev is now 20-0. 12 of those wins being over top 10 players.
Tsitsipas 4-6, 2-6, 5-7 Medvedev*
Medvedev forehand long, 0-15. Tsitsipas nets a defensive forehand. Medvedev drive backhand winner, 30-15.
Big serve down the T from Medvedev, two match points. GAME. SET. MATCH. Medvedev comes forward with a big forehand and Tsitsipas goes wide with a defensive backhand.
Tsitsipas* 4-6, 2-6, 5-6 Medvedev
Tsitsipas nets a volley, 0-30. Medvedev forehand winner, three break points.
Tsitsipas saves the first with a smash winner.
OH MY GOODNESS. Jaw dropping backhand pass on the run from Medvedev to break. Incredible.
He will serve for the match next.
Tsitsipas 4-6, 2-6, 5-5 Medvedev*
Medvedev forehand wide, 0-30. He fights back to 30-all with a big second serve. A forehand winner makes it 40-30.
And another big serve allows Medvedev to hold.
Tsitsipas* 4-6, 2-6, 5-4 Medvedev
Amazing Medvedev backhand return catches the baseline, 15-15. Medvedev forehand winner, 30-30.
Good attacking tennis from Tsitsipas and he gets the reward, 40-30. Tsitsipas double fault.
But he recovers to hold and stay ahead in the set.
Tsitsipas 4-6, 2-6, 4-4 Medvedev*
Medvedev refocuses and gets to 30-0. But Tsitsipas get back into the game after Medvedev hits a poor volley.
Break point Tsitsipas as Medvedev puts a backhand wide. He responds with an ace.
Another ace from Medvedev. And he holds after that slight scare.
Tsitsipas* 4-6, 2-6, 4-3 Medvedev
Medvedev nets a volley, 30-0. Then Tsitsipas finishes at the net with a deft volley, 40-0.
Medvedev forehand winner, 40-15. Medvedev nets a forehand return and Tsitsipas holds. Game on?
The pro-Greek crowd certainly hope so.
Tsitsipas 4-6, 2-6, 3-3 Medvedev*
Medvedev forehand wide to start the game, 0-15. Medvedev backhand wide, 15-30.
Medvedev double fault, two break points for Medvedev. The Russian seems rattled by the support for Tsitsipas.
Medvedev saves the first. But he nets a forehand and we are level in the set.
Tsitsipas* 4-6, 2-6, 2-3 Medvedev
Medvedev gets Tsitsipas on the move again and continues to get joy. Tsitsipas fights back from 0-30 to 30-all.
Tsitsipas shanks a forehand, 30-40. Tsitsipas saves the break point but concedes another when he puts a forehand wide.
Tsitsipas ace, deuce. Tsitsipas smash winner earns a big roar from the crowd and he hangs on to hold. Could be a key game.
Tsitsipas 4-6, 2-6, 1-3 Medvedev*
Medvedev has lost just four points on his first serve. He is in complete control.
He holds to 15 with a forehand winner.
"Water everywhere" - Tsitsipas hurls his bottle, Medvedev complains
Tsitsipas* 4-6, 2-6, 1-2 Medvedev
Some relief for Tsitsipas as he gets to 30-0. Medvedev backhand long, 40-15.
And Tsitsipas holds when Medvedev goes wide with a return.
Tsitsipas 4-6, 2-6, 0-2 Medvedev*
Medvedev forehand winner, 30-0. Then an ace, 40-0. He's unplayable at the moment. Especially against a tired opponent.
Medvedev holds when Tsitsipas nets a forehand return.
Third Set: Tsitsipas* 4-6, 2-6, 0-1 Medvedev
Two nights ago, Tsitsipas was in a similar position and fought back. Can he do it again?
Medvedev starts the game with a backhand winner down the line, 0-15. Medvedev beats Tsitsipas again at the net with a gorgeous backhand pass, 15-30. A rare victory for Tsitsipas after a long rally, 30-all.
But Medvedev responds with a forehand winner after a long rally, break point.
Tsitsipas backhand wide and Medvedev breaks.
Tsitsipas 4-6, 2-6 Medvedev*
Medvedev holds to love with an ace. This has been Medvedev at his very best. But Tsitsipas is looking very tired.
Tsitsipas* 4-6, 2-5 Medvedev
Beautiful backhand pass down the line from Medvedev. Tsitsipas then puts a forehand wide, 0-30
Stunning from the Russian again to chase down a Tsitsipas forehand approach and flick a backhand winner.
Wow. Medvedev forehand return winner off Tsitsipas' first serve. The Greek didn't even move.
This is a brutal display.
Tsitsipas 4-6, 2-4 Medvedev*
Medvedev forehand winner to start the game. Medvedev ace, 40-0. Medvedev nets a forehand. But he goes on the attack in the next point and completes a rapid fire hold.
Tsitsipas* 4-6, 2-3 Medvedev
Tsitsipas double fault, 15-15. The Greek's body language is a bit low, possibly due to fatigue.
Tsitsipas forehand wide, 15-30. He responds with a wide ace, 30-all.
Nice serve and volley from Tsitsipas to hold.
Tsitsipas 4-6, 1-3 Medvedev*
Medvedev ace down the T, his seventh of the match, 40-0.
And he holds when Tsitsipas goes long with a backhand.
Tsitsipas* 4-6, 1-2 Medvedev
Tsitsipas nets a tough volley, 15-30. Tsitsipas targets Medvedev's forehand and is rewarded with back-to-back errors.
Tsitsipas backhand goes long, deuce. Tsitsipas smash winner. Tsitsipas backhand clips the net and flies wide, deuce.
In the 8 rallies that have gone over 9 shots, Medvedev has won 7 of them. So tough to break down.
Medvedev forehand winner, break point. Boooom. Medvedev crashes home another forehand winner down the line to break.
Tsitsipas 4-6, 1-1 Medvedev*
An opening for Tsitsipas as Medvedev puts a forehand wide, 15-30. Medvedev drops another big first serve, 30-30.
Back-to-back backhand errors from Tsitsipas and Medvedev holds.
Second Set: Tsitsipas* 4-6, 1-0 Medvedev
Tsitsipas backhand flies wide, 30-30. He responds with a big first serve and drop shot winner.
Tsitsipas forehand error, deuce. Tsitsipas needed a big serve and he finds it. And he holds as he finishes with a forehand winner.
Tsitsipas 4-6 Medvedev*
Medvedev backhand goes long, 15-15. Grueling 17 shot rally ends with Tsitsipas netting a forehand. The Greek looked exhausted after that point.
Big flat Medvedev first serve, two set points. Tsitsipas saves the first as Medvedev puts a forehand long.
Tsitsipas dominates a long rally and draws the error, deuce. Big Medvedev first serve, third set point.
Medvedev double fault, deuce. First sign of nerves from Medvedev. He responds with an ace. And on set point No 4 he hammers down another big first serve to take the set.
Tsitsipas* 4-5 Medvedev
More good serving from Tsitsipas, 30-15. But he double faults, 30-30. Tsitsipas shanks a backhand wide, his sixth unforced backhand error of the match, deuce.
Lovely point construction by Tsitsipas and he flicks a backhand winner up the line. And he holds again with a big serve.
Tsitsipas 3-5 Medvedev*
Medvedev nets a forehand on the opening point but responds with back-to-back big first serves.
Medvedev ace, 40-15. Medvedev forehand long, 40-30. Medvedev forehand winner, he holds.
Tsitsipas* 3-4 Medvedev
Tsitsipas hasn't found his range like he did in the final three sets against Nadal. He is spraying the ball in rallies but his serve is keeping him in the match.
And the Greek holds to 15 and stays in touching distance.
Tsitsipas 2-4 Medvedev*
Medvedev holds to love. He's looked so impressive in the opening 20 minutes.
Tsitsipas* 2-3 Medvedev
Tsitsipas goes wide with a backhand, 30-30. Then nets a forehand after powerful Medvedev return, break point.
Big Tsitsipas first serve, deuce. Medvedev backhand down the line winner, break point.
And deep Medvedev backhand down the line and Tsitsipas goes long, the Russian break.
Tsitsipas 2-2 Medvedev*
Great 25 shot rally to start the game, Tsitsipas hits a drop shot but Medvedev reads it and puts away the backhand winner.
Big first serve, 40-0. And he holds again when Tsitsipas nets a forehand.
Tsitsipas* 2-1 Medvedev
Tsitsipas goes long with a backhand, 15-15. Big wide serve followed by a forehand winner from Tsitsipas, 30-15.
And he holds to 30 when Medvedev nets a forehand return.
Tsitsipas 1-1 Medvedev*
Medvedev does not hold back. Always hits a flat ball. And he powers his way to hold to 15.
First Set: Tsitsipas* 1-0 Medvedev (*denotes server)
Ominous start from Medvedev as he steps inside the baseline and dominates the opening point.
But three unforced errors from Medvedev allows Tsitsipas to lead 40-15.
Medvedev goes long with a forehand again and Tsitsipas holds.
Tsitsipas will serve first in this match...
Plenty of Greek fans in the crowd
Medvedev the favourite
On Eurosport, Mats Wilander and Alex Corretja are both backing Medvedev to get the job done.
His winning head-to-head suggests he should be the favourite.
Tsitsipas' road to the last four
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 19, 2021
Medvedev's road to the last four
— ATP Tour (@atptour) February 19, 2021
Hello and welcome to coverage of the second men's semi-final between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev at the Australian Open.
Tsitsipas and Medvedev have not seen eye-to-eye since their stormy clash in Miami in 2018 but with the pair set to meet in Friday's Australian Open semi-final it appears there is growing respect between the two.
Sparks flew when they met for the first time on the ATP Tour in Miami, with Medvedev confronting the Greek over his on-court conduct.
Tsitsipas stirred the pot in 2019 when he described the Russian's playing style as "boring" but that is not the term he would use now.
"Might have said in the past that he plays boring, but I don't really think he plays boring," Tsitsipas said. "He's in very good shape, playing good tennis, playing accurate, playing simple."
Earlier this week, Medvedev said Tsitsipas had improved physically and he would be no pushover if a match went the distance.
"I think he's improving physically because maybe two years ago could say, yeah, out of five sets it's maybe not bad to play him," Medvedev said. "I don't think it's the case right now."
Medvedev was proven right in the quarter-finals, with Tsitsipas digging deep to recover from two sets down and pull off an astonishing comeback victory over second seed Rafa Nadal.
Tsitsipas was denied by Nadal and Djokovic in his previous two Grand Slam semi-final appearances but Medvedev knows what it takes to reach a final, getting to the decider at the 2019 US Open before losing to Nadal.
The Russian fourth seed has won 19 consecutive matches dating back to the Paris Masters in November and is in no mood to stop now.
"The best feeling is when you win matches, so the more you win, the more you win in a row, the more it's better as a feeling," he said.
After reaching the final on Thursday, Djokovic said he was expecting a tough battle between Tsitsipas and Medvedev.
"Both of these guys are in great form," he said.
"Medvedev is playing on an extremely high quality. He's on a winning match streak, over 20 matches won. He's just the man to beat.
"On the other hand, Tsitsipas produced some phenomenal tennis last night against Rafa (Nadal). Coming back from two sets down against Rafa at a grand slam, any grand slam, is a huge effort."