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Daniil Medvedev 'almost couldn't walk' during the third set of his third-round clash against Alexei Popyrin at the Miami Open presented by Itau.

Medvedev: "All I Was Thinking About Was To Not Fall Down"

Russian battled cramps on his way to fourth round

World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev won “one of the sweetest victories” of his career on Sunday at the Miami Open presented by Itau after fighting through painful cramps for the majority of his third set in a gruelling 7-6(3), 6-7(7), 6-4 battle against Alexei Popyrin.

As if letting three match points slip away in the second set wasn’t already painful enough for the Russian, he was in for even more hurt as cramping soon set in.

“I think winning a Grand Slam final in three sets, straight sets, doesn't feel the way I felt after the match point today,” Medvedev mused in his post-match press conference.

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The top seed edged past 21-year-old Popyrin in a tight opening set, and was closing in on the victory with a break to the good in the second set. He hadn’t even faced a break point until he was serving for the match at 5-3 – and that’s when the contest took a turn. 

After breaking back, Popyrin dug out three match points on his own serve and won the ensuing tie-break to send them into a decider. By that time, Medvedev was already asking the physio for electrolytes and bananas to stave off the cramping. 

At one point, the 25-year-old was in so much pain that he appeared to be mouthing, "Ow, ow, ow” with each step on his way to the baseline. Staying upright was a battle for the visibly hobbled Medvedev, who also had to contend with the relentless hitting coming from Popyrin on the other side of the net.

“The only thing I was thinking about is not to fall down, because if [I] fall down, I don't think I would be able to get up,” Medvedev said. “There were some moments where I just wanted to lay down and say, ‘Okay, it's over.’ So I knew that that's the thing I couldn't accept myself to do.

“At the end it was just that I almost couldn't walk. My legs were not following me. I couldn't bend it or make it straight, I had to keep the same posture. I couldn't make a step more than, I don't know, 10 centimetres.”

Medvedev’s ordeal didn’t go unnoticed by Popyrin, who has regularly shared a practice court with the Russian player throughout 2021. In his post-match press conference, the Aussie admitted that his opponent’s dip in form threw off his game plan.

“When I saw him cramping a little bit, he was struggling a bit on the game that he broke me… Thinking back on it now and after talking with my team about it, [I] could have put a slider wide, a kick serve wide and made him run to the other corner and that would have been sufficient,” Popyrin said.

“But I tried to go for the serve that was working for me throughout the whole match. I think in these situations I've got to be a little bit smarter and read the situation, but that just comes with experience.”

Medvedev ultimately relied on his own strong serving to keep the points short and get out of trouble. Two hours after his match, the Russian was in good spirits at Hard Rock Stadium after intaking fluids and resting his legs. He told press that he has even more recovery planned for this evening, and will take full advantage of his day off on Monday to rest.

“I feel that it was a funny match in a way, a good match to remember. For me, of course, not for him,” Medvedev said with a wry smile. “You know, the funny thing is that I should have won in two sets. We would not be talking about any of these things, but here we are. So a match to remember, for sure.”

Top seed Medvedev awaits the winner of 16th seed Dusan Lajovic and Frances Tiafoe in the fourth round for a shot at his first Miami quarter-final berth.

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