Daniil Medvedev Goes To The Semis As The Open Villian

Crowd sourcing empowered Daniil Medvedev throughout this US Open.

Today, Medvedev tapped inner electricity pulling the plug on Stan Wawrinka, 7-6(6), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, to storm into his first Grand Slam semifinal.

The 23-year-old Medvedev is the youngest US Open men’s semifinalist since a 23-year-old Novak Djokovic made the 2010 final four and is the first Russian to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Mikhail Youzhny, who now coaches Denis Shapovalov, at the 2010 US Open.

Managing a left quadriceps issue that he said caused him to contemplate retiring in the opening set, Medvedev saved a set point in the tie break and spent much of the match befuddling the Swiss strongman with low, deep drives.

“I am still really painful in my leg,” Medvedev said afterward. “I knew I have to play without rhythm. Some games I have to not run to relax my leg. I was hitting full power, then suddenly I was doing dropshots in the middle.

“I knew I should not give him any rhythm. In crucial moments maybe it will make him miss. That’s what has worked. Of course, I would prefer to win in a normal way with a normal tennis game, but that’s how I won. Hopefully physically I will feel better normally, yes.”

The Cincinnati champion continued his red-hot roll through the North American summer hard-court season scoring his 19th victory in his last 21 matches. Medvedev scored his ATP-best 49th win of the season working through his fourth consecutive physical four-setter.

In a rematch of the 2016 US Open final, Wawrinka toppled world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who tapped out in the third set suffering from a left shoulder injury. Wawrinka couldn’t summon the same energy or intensity in his second meeting with Medvedev today.

“It’s what he’s good at. He’s playing a different ball,” Wawrinka said of Medvedev. “He’s really solid from baseline. Playing really flat backhand. For me, I wasn’t at my best today. I wasn’t moving great. I didn’t mix enough my game, and at the end it was struggle.”

The victory vaults Medvedev to the world No. 4 ranking and his first career Grand Slam semifinal while spoiling the prospect of an all-Swiss semifinal.

Medvedev will face the winner of tonight’s quarterfinal between 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and 78th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov for a spot in Sunday’s final.

The man who has feuded with New York crowds sarcastically crediting fans for their “support” after his wins on Louis Armstrong Stadium, incurring $19,000 in fines and embracing the villain role competed with resilience today. 

Afterward, Medvedev wisely tried to friend the fans he feuded with at times.

“As I said in the post match, even after the previous round, what I got I deserved,” said Medvedev, who called himself “an idiot” after his controversial clash with the crowd. “Usually I’m not like this, as I was in the third round match. I’m not proud of it.

“I’m working to be better. Hopefully I can show the bright side of myself.”

A shrewd tactical player whose game is predicated on savvy court sense, a stinging serve and flat backhand he can land anywhere in the court, Medvedev converted four of eight break points repeatedly dragging Wawrinka into awkward spots.

“To be honest, before the match, I was feeling perfect,” Medvedev said. “I think in the first game of the match I think I pulled my quadriceps a little bit…

“I think in the fourth set I felt the effects of the pain killers and I could move normal. I’m gonna see how I feel tomorrow, and I will do my best to be ready for the semifinals.”

In a shaky start, Wawrinka was hit with a foot fault as he surrendered serve to start the match. Medvedev blew a 40-love lead clanking three consecutive double faults but recovered confirm the break for 2-0.

Wawrinka whipped an ace holding for 3-4 then Medvedev took a medical timeout for treatment of a left quad injury. The trainer re-taped the Russian’s left upper thigh.

Struggling to push up on serve, Medvedev called for the trainer again before serving for the set at 5-4 and had the taping around his left thigh removed.

The towering Russian briefly came unraveled. Hit with two foot fault calls in a row, Medvedev mashed a netted forehand as Wawrinka broke for the first time to level.

Despite dumping nine double faults in his first six service games, Medvedev still managed to push the set into a tie break on the strength of some bold net play.

Given his leg issues, winning the opening set seemed absolutely vital for Medvedev, who took a 5-2 tie break lead only to see Wawrinka storm back. When Medvedev, who had won his first 11 net points in a row, shoveled a volley deep he faced set point at 5-6.

Stepping forward for the kill shot, Wawrinka lined up his forehand but couldn’t squeeze it inside the line on set point. Medvedev’s third drop shot of the breaker drew a long reply giving him set point.

Bolting a body serve, Medvedev took the 59-minute opener winning 11 of 13 trips to net.

Managing both his injury issue and the match masterfully, Medvedev coaxed a scattered backhand to break for a 3-1 second-set lead. The first Russian man to crack the Top 5 since Nikolay Davydenko nine years ago, quickly backed up the break for 4-1.

As the set progressed, the lanky Medvedev showed few signs of limited movement and aboslutely no fear of his accomplished opponent as he continued to bleed errors on crucial points from the three-time Grand Slam champion.

Serving for a two-set lead, Medvedev ran into a sticky situation at 30-all. Trying to summon some support, Wawrinka waved his arms imploring the crowd to make some noise.

Fans responded, but so did Medvedev.

Recognizing critical stages is one thing, but Medvedev has the unnerving ability to mix up paces and spins on pivotal points.

Crushing a mid-court forehand for set point, Medvedev unleashed his biggest serve of the day—a 130 mph blast that singed the service line—as he snatched a two-set lead committing just four unforced errors compared to 10 for the Swiss.

Targeting the Medvedev forehand, Wawrinka stretched the court with a crosscourt forehand wide eliciting a netted reply for the first break and a 2-0 third-set lead.

Measuring his forehand again, Wawrinka crunched his 16th forehand winner for set point. Drawing the mid-court forehand he wanted, Wawrinka badly bungled an open-court drive wide of the sideline to face break point.

Wawrinka denied a pair of break points, but scrawled his signature shot—the backhand down the line—wide to face a third break point seven-and-a-half minutes into the game. Wawrinka erased it.

On his third set point, Wawrinka sealed a near 12-minute game on a backhand error raising a fist toward his box after forcing the fourth set.

That was really Wawrinka’s last stand.

On this day, Medvedev’s low drives gave his opponent little to work with and Wawrinka couldn’t consistently keep the ball within the lines. Medvedev rolled through eight of the first 10 points for a 2-0 fourth-set lead.

The 6’6” Russian’s skill controlling the ball on the full stretch was evident today. Pushed wide, Medvedev flicked back full stretch forehand squash shot to save a break point holding strong to confirm the break.

Can Medvedev take the title? Wawrinka isn’t so sure pointing to Medvedev’s injury, fatigue and the prospect of potentially playing Federer and 18-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal back-to-back to win the title. 

“He can, but I don’t think he will,” Wawrinka said. “I think it’s going to be really difficult. But that’s just my opinion.

“Because he looks to start to be tired, and he has to beat some more tougher player in the semifinal, Roger or Grigor, and then in the final. But again, he’s showing last few weeks that anything can happen with him, so for sure he’s going to have a shot. He just need two more matches.”

Fittingly, the man who elevated his play at critical stages played over Wawrinka’s head with a clever rainbow lob to close a two hour, 34-minute conquest defeating the 2016 US Open champion for the second time in as many meetings.

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