Russian world No. 6 Daniil Medvedev has survived an extraordinary challenge from American Frances Tiafoe to advance through to his fourth successive ATP final at Indian Wells.
Medvedev is coming off titles in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai, extending his winning streak to 19 as he set up a final berth in the desert against top seeded Carlos Alcaraz.
It is Medvedev’s best result ever in the unofficial fifth major, having never before made it past the fourth round.
Medvedev showed no sign of trouble from the right ankle he twisted in a fourth-round win over Alexander Zverev, or the thumb he injured in his quarterfinal against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina as he wore down Tiafoe in the first set.
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Despite his hot streak however, the Russian needed eight match points to best Tiafoe, with the American sending the second set to a tie-break after being down 3-5, and taking full advantage of three unforced errors from Medvedev, and an eventual capitulation that saw a double fault on break point.
Undeterred, he broke Tiafoe to love in the next game, but once again the American refused to yield, surviving four more match points on the way to a service break to force the tie-breaker.
Medvedev, who also needed treatment on a cut thumb after a tumble in his semi-final win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, said his travails this week, especially his ankle injury, had helped him focus and forget about his dislike of the slow Indian Wells courts.
“It’s still not my favourite conditions to play (but) when you’re in the final you cannot complain,” he said.
“It was crazy at the end,” Medvedev said. “I got super tight. I would say that (after) 6-5, 40-0, I think I got tight at deuce when I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s a lot of opportunities missed. This could go not well for me.’
“The ace was a relief,” he added.
“I’m just really happy that I managed not to lose this match.”
The ridiculous finish was branded “crazy” by tennis journalist Matt Cronin on Twitter, while commentator Jose Morgado called it “unbelievable”.
Racquet Magazine editor Ben Rothenberg called it “wild, wild stuff”.
“Golly heck,” he wrote on Twitter.
It comes after a tournament of Medvedev complaining about the unusually slow surfaces at Indian Wells this year.
During treatment for the broken nail he suffered in the quarterfinal, Medvedev was heard muttering about the speed of the court, with Nick Lester on Prime Video saying “just overheard Medvedev again having a go at the court speed”.
Medvedev has made no secret of his antipathy for the slow hard courts of Indian Wells, but the Russian admitted he’d do better to avoid vocally venting his frustration in every match.
“I do think it actually distracts me, and I would be better just shutting up and playing,” Medvedev said.
The courts at Indian Wells are notably slower this year, with commentator Rob Koenig pointing out that HawkEye data demonstrated this year’s surface was even slower than the clay courts of Roland-Garros.
Medvedev’s average first serve speed at contact was 201km/h at last year’s Indian Wells Masters, and 199km/h this year.
Medvedev’s average speed on return was 69km/h last year, but this year it is an extraordinary 51km/h.
For comparison, the French Open is played on clay, typically the slowest surface in tennis, and at last year’s tournament, Medvedev’s average speed on return was 54km/h.
– with AFP
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