Monday Preview: Medvedev, Thiem & Zverev Aim For Melbourne Breakthroughs
Daniil Medvedev, Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev have 34 ATP Tour titles and more than $53 million in prize money between them. What they don’t have is an Australian Open quarter-final. The trio of talented young stars all seek to record their best result in Melbourne when fourth-round action continues on Monday.
Fourth seed Medvedev looks to continue his pattern of success against No. 15 seed Stan Wawrinka. The Russian leads 2-0 in their ATP Head2Head rivalry and earned both wins in Grand Slams (2017 Wimbledon & 2019 US Open). Both matches were competitive four-setters, but saw Medvedev wear down the Swiss in the latter stages each time.
The 24-year-old has picked up where he left off last year, posting a 7-1 record this season and striking winners with ease. Medvedev has comfortably handled the pressure of being viewed as a title contender in Melbourne, blocking out expectations and focussing on each match in front of him.
“Stan is a big hitter, great serves. I'm going to work a little bit on my return, maybe will work just to be aggressive myself, to not let him [hit shots he wants] all the time because that's when he's the most dangerous,” Medvedev said. “I will just have to give my best on the court. That's how I have my opportunities to win.”
After two lengthy battles to start his campaign, Wawrinka received a reprieve on Saturday when No. 19 seed John Isner retired in the second set of their third-round match due to injury. The 2014 champion (d. Nadal) is a player who needs matches to feel comfortable and often raises his level in the latter stages of big events. If his heavy backhand is firing, it could pose problems for Medvedev’s flat groundstrokes.
“It's great to be back in the second week, that's for sure,” Wawrinka said. “Feeling way better. [Ready] to have a good practice tomorrow and to be ready for the next one.”
Fifth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem carries a flawless 5-0 record in his ATPHead2Head series with No. 10 seed Gael Monfils of France. The Austrian’s intense pre-season training helped carry him through second and third-round matches that saw him spend more than six hours combined on court. Thiem is pleased with how his level has improved with each match and believes he can elevate his game even further.
“It's always fun to play against him. Such a great athlete. Such a great sportsman. We had fun and great encounters in the past. I expect similar [on Monday],” Thiem said. “[It’s] going to be a nice atmosphere, as well. He's such a good shot-maker, always amazing rallies against him. He got back into the Top 10 [of the Fedex ATP Rankings] last year, playing great as well in the beginning of this year.
“I'm expecting a tough encounter. [The] second week of a Grand Slam is special. Every opponent is playing outstanding tennis. It's going to be a really good and tough match.”
Although Monfils has only reached the quarter-finals once in 13 previous trips to Melbourne, his flashy shotmaking was in full flight during the first week. He also appears to be playing with an even greater sense of urgency. Monfils believes he can win a Grand Slam title, but knows his opportunities are limited at age 33. Reaching the finish line in Melbourne will require him to beat opponents that he has historically struggled against, but he’s eager for the challenge.
“Dominic beats me most of the time we play. Always tricky and [he] improved a lot on hard courts. I think he's playing great at the moment,” Monfils said. “I just have to be myself, try to figure out with my coach a good way to beat him.
“I feel fine physically, so that will help. I think it’s a challenge that I will face.”
Alexander Zverev, the No. 7 seed, aims to continue his dominance against No. 17 seed Andrey Rublev. The German holds a 3-0 lead in their ATP Head2Head rivalry and won all six sets that they’ve played. Zverev has yet to drop a set in Melbourne and looks poised to produce the Grand Slam breakthrough that his fans have been eager for.
“[Rublev] is one of the most hard-hitting players on tour. Out of every position, he can hit a winner,” Zverev said. “He improved a lot. I think he improved his serve a lot. He improved his movement a lot. He's somebody that is very young still, but is always working and always improving.”
Rublev has already achieved his best result in Melbourne and extended his unbeaten streak this season to 11 matches. The Russian captured titles in Doha (d. Moutet) and Adelaide (d. Harris) this month, and is growing in confidence with each match. Although he’s shown no signs of fatigue so far, fitness could potentially play a factor as he gets ready for his 12th match in three weeks.
“Sascha won so many tournaments,” Rublev said “He was No. 3 in the [rankings], won so many ATP [Tour] titles. He won the Nitto ATP Finals. It's going to be tough, but interesting.”
The final match on Monday’s schedule will see top-seeded Rafael Nadal square off with No. 23 seed Nick Kyrgios. Nadal leads their ATP Head2Head rivalry 4-3, but Kyrgios has won two of their past three matches on hard courts. The 2009 champion (d. Federer) enjoyed the most comfortable run to the second week of anyone left in the draw, dropping an average of seven games per match.
Kyrgios scored an epic fifth-set match tie-break win over No. 16 seed Karen Khachanov to earn the right to face Nadal. Although he admitted in his on-court interview that his legs “feel like they’re 40 kilos,” the fiery 24-year-old always gets up for prime-time matches against the world’s best players. He’ll have the Rod Laver Arena crowd on his side as he looks to create more second-week magic Down Under.