Daniil Medvedev ended Christopher Eubanks’ dream run at Wimbledon on Wednesday, when he clawed past the American 6-4, 1-6, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-1 to reach the semi-finals at the grass-court major for the first time.
Eubanks, who less than four months ago had not cracked the Top 100 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, captured the attention of fans throughout the world by advancing to the quarter-finals, and was within a tie-break of blasting his way into the last four at The Championships. But Medvedev did not panic and locked down from the baseline when it mattered most to move on after two hours and 57 minutes.
“After [the] first set for sure, I didn't want to go five. When I lost the third, I wanted to go five because I had no other choice,” Medvedev said, eliciting a laugh from the crowd. “But yeah, there was a moment in the match where I completely lost the game itself and he played well. I started to sink, I started to do a lot of mistakes, not serving well enough.
“Actually, in the third set, I managed to kind of step by step start to build something and not lose, let's say 6-1 again. And then it helped me in the fourth to just be there. I had more opportunities than him unfortunately on his serve, but didn't manage to do it. But starting from the tie-break, I managed to play amazing and [I am] really happy about it.”
Earlier this year, Eubanks stepped into the spotlight when he reached the Miami quarter-finals as a qualifier. At the ATP Masters 1000 event, Medvedev ended the American’s run 6-3, 7-5.
The third seed was made to work a lot harder on No. 1 Court Wednesday and was within one tie-break of losing. But Medvedev was too solid in the critical moments and relied on his own serving, hitting 28 aces in the match and winning 89 per cent of his first-serve points in the final two sets.
“You have to serve well. You want to do a lot of aces, and that's honestly the most important [thing],” Medvedev said of the key in the match and moving forward in the tournament. “Sometimes you can play on grass almost the best match of your life, but you can lose [in] three tie-breaks and then nobody will care that you played well.”
If Medvedev wins the title, he will climb to first in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin and set the stage for a three-way battle for ATP Year-End No. 1 presented by Pepperstone with Novak Djokovic and Alcaraz.
The crowd favourite, Eubanks hit back-to-back double faults to relinquish a break early in the first set, and Medvedev capitalised by playing a clean set with his usual assortment of jaw-dropping shots. One backhand passing shot left Eubanks shrugging in disbelief as if to say “Too good”. The third seed hit 16 winners to only one unforced error in the opener.
But from there, Eubanks settled in and responded with aggressive tennis. The American played with a joie de vivre and took in the atmosphere during the biggest moment of his career, often interacting with the crowd, which included close friend and WTA star Coco Gauff.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Eubanks cracked a couple of one-handed backhands to seize a break for 3-1 in the second set. That proved to be just the beginning of his turnaround.
Eubanks did not allow Medvedev to spin his defensive web on the London grass. Without overplaying, the two-time college All-American went for his shots and forced the action on his opponent, relying on his booming serve to escape jams and frequently moving forward.
But when it mattered most in the fourth-set tie-break, Medvedev forced his opponent to take the match from him by playing from the baseline and preventing the recent Mallorca champion from moving forward.
Eubanks played 61 points at the net in the first four points, but just five in the deciding set. The match was suddenly played on the favourite's terms.
Medvedev capitalised on the momentum shift early in the fifth set and immediately broke when the 6’7” former college star hit a double fault into the net. Although the American battled hard until the end, the third seed pulled away. Eubanks shared a special moment with the crowd, making a heart with his hands as he departed. He leaves as the No. 31 player in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.