Daniil's Day: Medvedev Reaches First Grand Slam Final At The US Open
Daniil Medvedev was one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour entering the US Open, reaching the final in Washington and Montreal before claiming his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy in Cincinnati. But could he replicate that form in Flushing Meadows?
"It's really tough mentally. That's what I've been missing before. Before, my best Slam result was fourth round. I felt like it's just so tough to win a five-set match. I knew I was going the right way, I just had to fight for every set, for every point. Didn't work out before," Medvedev said. "But here, this week, everything has worked out. I won a lot of four-set matches, which shows how great mentally I was here, and physically, also."
Medvedev joins former World No. 1s Ivan Lendl (1982) and Andre Agassi (1995) as the only players to make the Washington, Canada, Cincinnati and US Open finals in the same season during the Open Era (since 1968). He is now 20-2 during the North American summer swing.
"When I came to the USA I didn't know that it would be this good," said Medvedev, who has a tour-leading 50 wins in 2019, including 37 on hard courts, in an on-court interview after the match. "I have to say I love [the] USA."
|1. Daniil Medvedev||50|
|2. Rafael Nadal||46|
|3. Roger Federer||43|
|4. Novak Djokovic||41|
|5. Stefanos Tsitsipas||37|
The 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier made the Round of 16 of a major just once before this tournament, and he didn’t move past the third round in two previous trips to New York. But Medvedev, who guaranteed his spot at the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time with his quarter-final victory over Stan Wawrinka, is the first Russian to reach a major championship match since Marat Safin won the 2005 Australian Open.
Medvedev was calm and composed — as if he has been in this situation numerous times — patiently camping behind the baseline and repelling Dimitrov's offence over and over until the Bulgarian’s game slowly began to break down. The World No. 5 advanced to the final after two hours and 38 minutes, setting a clash with three-time champion Rafael Nadal, who beat frst-time major semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini.
"Today I felt that he was closer to winning the first set, but I won it and that changed the momentum of the match," Medvedev said on the court.
Entering the match, Medvedev had broken opponents 28 times to lead all semi-finalists. And he continued that trend in this match, breaking on five of his nine chances.
Dimitrov showed throughout the encounter that he would try to blast a forehand at any opportunity and move his way to net, using his knifing backhand slice to try to elicit a ball he could swing away at. But Medvedev never got frustrated, playing steadier tennis as the match went on to earn one of the biggest wins of his career.
The five-time ATP Tour champion dominated both the short rallies and the long rallies. Medvedev won rallies of less than five shots by a margin of 63-54, and rallies that lasted longer than eight shots 30-21 to earn just his second straight-sets triumph of the tournament (R1, def. Gunneswaran).
With a Berrettini loss against Nadal, Medvedev will become the youngest US Open finalist since Novak Djokovic (23) in 2010 (l. to Nadal). He can become youngest champion since Juan Martin del Potro (20) in 2009 (d. Federer).
"I understand that what I've done these four weeks is amazing, even comparing to what I've done before," Medvedev said. "I don't want to stop. I will always work to be better. I will try to do my best every day."
Dimitrov arrived in Flushing Meadows having lost seven of eight matches, including a straight-sets defeat to World No. 405 Kevin King at the BB&T Atlanta Open in July. But the Bulgarian did a complete 360-degree turn in form in New York, advancing to the last four at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for the first time.
"Good match overall. I think it was just a few points here and there. Three sets to love, but the score for me doesn't justify the match itself. I think it was a good level," Dimitrov said. "Overall he played really well, fought hard, a lot of the key points he played well. So... I don't want to be too down on myself. Great weeks. First time in a semi-final out here. Just going to take a lot of the positives, for sure."
Did You Know?
Medvedev, who leads the ATP Tour with seven finals this year (2-4), will climb to a career-high No. 4 in the ATP Rankings on Monday regardless of his result in the final. The Russian first cracked the Top 10 on 15 July, the day after Wimbledon ended.
As It Happened
It took some time for both players to settle in, with Medvedev breaking immediately for a 1-0 lead in the first set and Dimitrov responding to even the opener at 2-2. The average rally length for the majority of the first set exceeded seven shots, with both men seemingly working into form, and Dimitrov typically taking the first strike when he could.
Dimitrov earned a set point on Medvedev’s serve at 6-5, getting a look at a second-serve return. But the Russian displayed no fear, hitting an inside-out forehand approach shot that led to an error on a backhand pass from the Bulgarian’s racquet. And in the tie-break — in which more points were won by the returner (7) than the server (5) — Medvedev was simply a bit steadier, gaining the advantage when Dimitrov miss hit a forehand on the first set point against him.
The Bulgarian could not capitalise on winning two more points overall in the opener and had a far better winner-to-unforced error ratio. Dimitrov hit 14 winners to 15 unforced errors in the first set whereas Medvedev struck just seven winners to 18 unforced errors.
Dimitrov shook off any initial disappointment after letting slip chances in the first set by breaking to start the second set, trying to pump himself up and get the crowd involved. But the eight-time ATP Tour champion struggled to hold, losing his next two service games as Medvedev reduced his unforced errors.
As the match ticked near and then past the two-hour mark, Dimitrov began swooping into the net more, pushing the pace of rallies against the Medvedev wall. But despite breaking back, and later earning three game points on his serve that would have evened the set at 5-5, the Bulgarian missed into the net to give his opponent a daunting two-set lead. That proved costly, as Medvedev has lost just once with a two-set lead (12-1), with that defeat coming against Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the first round of Roland Garros this year.
Dimitrov had never come from two sets down to win a match in his career, so it was clear he would need to get off to a quick start. But the Bulgarian missed a forehand long to give Medvedev a 3-1 advantage, and the fifth seed never looked back.
Medvedev did not face a break point in the final set, and his celebration was muted after holding to 15 to clinch his victory.