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Daniil Medvedev had shown us his genius in recent years, but against Felix Auger-Aliassime, he showed his grit
How the Russian recovered from two sets down to reach the semifinals.
Published Jan 26, 2022
INTERVIEW: Medvedev completes his comeback
Credit Daniil Medvedev for his honesty—or his knack for stirring things up.
When Jim Courier asked the Russian how he came back from a two-set deficit to beat Felix Auger-Aliassime, 6-7 (4), 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-4 in the Australian Open quarterfinals on Wednesday, Medvedev hesitated, warned the crowd that they might not like what he was about to tell them, and said, “I thought, ‘What would Novak do?’”
Medvedev got the boos he likely expected from the Rod Laver audience, but his thought process made sense. So far in his career, Medvedev has shown us his genius, his guile, his speed, his steadiness and his serve, among many other attributes. But we hadn’t seen the grit that’s needed to come back from two sets down. He had done it just once, against Marin Cilic at Wimbledon last summer; two days later, though, he had lost his next five-setter, to Hubert Hurkacz.
As Medvedev realizes, to make the next leap upward, to the heights currently occupied by Djokovic, he needs to learn to win the wars of attrition, the matches that seem all but lost, when persistence and endurance and belief mean more than shot-making genius.
“Some matches I watched win him the Grand Slams, being two sets to love down with [Stefanos] Tsitsipas and [Lorenzo] Musetti in Roland Garros,” Medvedev said of Djokovic. “[Tonight] I was there between the sets, and as I say, zero confidence in myself and the outcome of the match. I was like, ‘What would the best players in the world do?’”
“I thought, ‘I’m gonna make him work,’” Medvedev said. “I’m gonna fight to the last point.”
Medvedev did that, and he extricated himself from a lot of tight spots along the way. At 4-4 in the third set, he came back from 0-30 down on his serve. At 5-5, he survived a 30-all game. He raised his serving level for the must-win third-set tiebreaker. He saved three break points in the first game of the fifth set, and two more when he served for the match at 5-4 in the fifth.
Oh yeah, he also saved a match point, at 4-5 in the fourth, with an unreturnable serve, just moments after double faulting. Medvedev and Auger-Aliassime each won 182 points, but Medvedev won a couple more that mattered.
“There were so many tough pressure points, not only the match point itself,” Medvedev said. “I did handle them pretty well starting from the third set.”
Medvedev said that Auger-Aliassime was “playing insane” at the start, and that his level was “unreal.” The fact that the Canadian brought that level to a stage like this can be counted as another positive step forward for him. But he’ll kick himself when he thinks of his opportunities over the last three sets, and how he reacted to them. He missed makeable returns on some, and routine forehands and backhands on others. In the final game, with break points to level it at 5-5, Auger-Aliassime was caught flat-footed and sent a backhand wide; then, at match point for Medvedev, he sent another ball well over the baseline. Auger-Aliassime attacked forcefully for much of this match, hitting 64 winners to Medvedev’s 49, and going 41 of 48 at net. But on those clutch points, he let the ball come to him.
“At the end you step [off] the court, you want to have no regrets,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I can regret that—I can go back and think I wish I made different choices, or I wish Daniil didn’t play as good in certain moments. But, yeah, it was a good effort. At the end of the day, I can’t regret the effort that I put, and the chances I gave myself.”
Medvedev might want to keep asking himself, “What would Novak do?” at the Australian Open. The chances seem pretty good that, after surviving a match like this, he would go on to win the tournament. But Medvedev also might want to do what he thinks is right, too. He’s one of the world’s very best, and he proved it again last night.