Daniil Medvedev kept his hopes of a title defense alive at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, rallying from a set down to defeat Lorenzo Sonego, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

"I didn't play good in the beginning," Medvedev admitted on court after that match. "That's something people have to understand, that sometimes you have a bad day. I went on court and was not feeling right. I was too nervous, too tight, which doesn't happen often to me, so a lot of mistakes and nerves.

"Sometimes it takes a set to calm down and say, 'Look, if I continue what I did in the first set, that's not going to work and I'm going to lose. I just have to change, try to do better, and try to be more calm. If it doesn’t work, then it's his day!'"

The former world No. 1 has never defended a title in his career, but is three wins away from doing so in the Middle East after edging past the in-form Italian in one hour and 58 minutes in an entertaining Center Court clash.

Medvedev is playing his first tournament since the Australian Open, where he finished runner-up to Jannik Sinner after five physical sets. With new technical advisor and former ATP No. 6 Gilles Simon watching from the stands, the top seed made relatively quick work of ex-gamer buddy Alexander Shevchenko in his opening round but found himself on the back foot against an inspired Sonego early on.


Ranked No. 48—down from his 2021 career-high of No. 21—Sonego had been on a three-match losing streak heading into Dubai, but turned things around after three sets with rising Indian star Sumit Nagal. The 28-year-old had never taken a set from Medvedev in their two previous meetings, both in 2023, but nonetheless served his way to a 5-2 lead against Medvedev on Wednesday.

Struggling to find his range, Medvedev saved eight set points over the next two games but couldn’t make up for a -10 differential in the opening set—striking just three winners to 13 unforced errors—and Sonego ultimately took the set behind one last big serve.

"Sometimes emotions take over, and straightaway when I went on court, I felt not right and that's when you do wrong things like talking to your box," said Medvedev, who has made a point to affect a calmer on-court persona in 2024. "You can do this one time or a few times per set, but when you're talking after every lost point, that's not good because you're not focused on the right things. I managed after the first set to say to myself to focus on the right things and do what I have to do."

Medvedev appeared more settled behind his own delivery as the second set got underway, and went on a tear from three games all, reeling off 11 of the next 12 points to nab his first break of the match and force a decider.

The final set opened with more strong serving from both until the pivotal fifth game, where Medvedev dug out of a 40-15 deficit and broke serve with a running forehand winner.

Sonego kept fighting even as Medvedev grew in confidence, striking the forehand with authority to keep the defending champion under pressure. But Medvedev held firm and soon found himself at match point on Sonego's serve. One last forehand miss put Medvedev over the finish line and booked him a quarterfinal against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

"To be honest, I'm feeling good here. It's a pretty fast court, good conditions, and in the evening it's nice weather: not cold, not hot, not too humid even if today, for Dubai it felt more humid than usual! Even if the first set was not good, I know I'm able to play good here, so that's a good feeling that you know you can perform well."