Medvedev Rallies To Stun Nishikori In Thriller, Reach Barcelona Final
Daniil Medvedev leads the ATP Tour in hard court wins since the start of last season. But if his impressive three-set semi-final win over two-time Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell champion Kei Nishikori on Saturday is any indication, the Russian is plenty comfortable on clay, too.
Medvedev reached his first clay-court ATP Tour final with a thrilling 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 triumph against Nishikori, battling from a break down in the decider to eliminate the World No. 7 after two hours and 25 minutes. He will face recent BNP Paribas Open titlist Dominic Thiem, who ousted 11-time champion Rafael Nadal, for the trophy.
"It almost [slipped]. He was up a break in the third and I felt that I lost the momentum. The match was going away from me," Medvedev said. "I'm really happy that I managed to hold my nerves, to try to come back, and I managed to come back. I'm just happy to be in the final."
Before last week’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Medvedev owned just two tour-level wins on this surface (2-11). But after reaching the semi-finals at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament and making the Barcelona final with the loss of only two sets, the 23-year-old has eight clay-court wins this year alone (8-1).
Medvedev leads the ATP Tour this year with 25 wins, six ahead of second-placed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Guido Pella, both of whom are 19-9. The Russian is also tied for the second-most tour-level victories overall since the start of 2018, joining Novak Djokovic with his 68th triumph. Only Alexander Zverev has won more matches with 70.
Most Wins Since Start Of 2018
"I think I'm getting more consistent on every surface and it's good for me," Medvedev said. "I hope I can continue improving every day. That's my goal and I hope I can beat more players like this because that's when you improve, when you beat these top players."
Nishikori had won the pair’s only previous clay-court FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting last year in Monte-Carlo. But Medvedev showed his improvement on Pista Rafa Nadal, using his two-handed backhand well from deep in the court to neutralise Nishikori’s offence, at some points making it feel like he had an answer for everything the Japanese threw at him.
But late in the second set Nishikori began to dictate play with his forehand, stepping inside the court to strike the ball with interest as Medvedev was left retrieving from well behind the baseline. The two-time champion immediately broke in the third set, leaving Medvedev frustrated as errors began to creep into his game.
But the Russian locked in again, breaking back and breaking for a second time in the third set on his first match point when Nishikori hit an inside-in forehand into the net.
"I knew I just had to continue. Kei is all about this. He can have amazing moments, but he can have some moments in the match when he will miss something. So I needed to win as many games as I can when he was good. I managed to not go double-break down, otherwise I probably would have lost the match. That was the key."
Did You Know?
Medvedev has only 30 ATP Ranking points to defend through Roland Garros.
Familar Foes To Meet For Doubles Crown
Second seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares will play third seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah for the Barcelona doubles title. This will be the ninth FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting between the two teams, both of which qualified for the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals.
Murray and Soares have won four consecutive matches against the Colombians, including this year's Sydney final and last year's Cincinatti championship battle.