Daniil Medvedev stared down a fierce early challenge from Hungarian powerhouse Marton Fucsovics Saturday to advance to the Wimbledon fourth round and remove one of the few blemishes on his otherwise outstanding 2023 season.
The third seed, who has won five titles and leads the tour with 44 match wins, advanced to the second week of a major for the first time this year with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory in three hours and four minutes.
The only bad news for Medvedev? Carlos Alcaraz ended his chances of returning to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings when later in the day the Spaniard defeated Nicolas Jarry in four sets on Centre Court.
Under a closed roof on No. 1 Court, both players delighted enthusiastic fans with a range of power hitting, inventive shot making, drop shots, athletic court coverage and regular forays to the net in one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament to date.
"He's a very tough player to play against and after the first set I was more decisive in some points and saved a couple of break points on my serve. I'm really happy to be through," Medvedev said.
"I really want to do well here. I wasn't playing here last year and it's my worst Grand Slam in terms of results. I have a big motivation to change that. The further you go, the tougher the opponents. I hope that I can show my best tennis and enjoy."
Fucsovics took the fight to Medvedev early, erasing two break points in his opening service game before aggressive returning underpinned his break of Medvedev to go ahead 2-1, a lead he did not relinquish en route to claiming the first set.
Fucsovics exploited Medvedev's deep-court return and rally positions with consistent net approaches and well-timed serve/volley plays. He was aggressive on return but his deeper rally position made it difficult for the former World No. 1 to hit winners and drew Medvedev into a high number of unforced errors (10 in the first set alone).
But the physical 31-year-old World No. 67, whose motto is 'every day, gym day,' paid the price for a surprise drop in intensity after the first set. Although Medvedev was still making uncharacteristic unforced errors, the World No. 3 began to take command of the baseline exchanges and had more success defending his second serve. (In the first set he won just three of 10 second-serve points.)
After 21 unforced errors in the first two sets, Medvedev went into lockdown mode in the third, playing some of his best tennis of the match with 10 winners to just six unforced errors, missing just six first serves in the set.
Medvedev next plays 21-year-old Czech Jiri Lehecka, who advanced to the fourth round with a 6-2, 7-6(2), 6-7(5), 6-7(9), 6-2 victory against 16th seed Tommy Paul. In the first Lexus ATP Head2Head matchup between Medvedev and Lehecka, the Czech will bid for his second major quarter-final after reaching that stage at the Australian Open to kickstart his 2023 season.
The World No. 37 nearly clinched victory in the fourth-set tie-break against Paul, but an unsuccessful challenge on match point helped the American extend the match. At 8/7, Lehecka stopped play to challenge a forehand from Paul, a shot that was shown to have caught the back of the baseline. Making matters worse for Lehecka, he fought off Paul's line-clipper to produce a deep forehand of his own that flirted with the baseline, drawing an error from the American.
But Lehecka showed poise beyond his years to regroup in the final set, taking the final four games of the match to extend his best Wimbledon run. Broken just once on five break points, he became the 11th Czech man in the Open era to reach the last 16 at Wimbledon — a list headed by Tomas Berdych and Ivan Lendl, who both reached that stage nine times.
Lehecka, who won the first eight sets he played this fortnight, is up six places to No. 31 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings behind his fourth-round run — a mark that would be a new career-high in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.