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Stefanos Tsitsipas continues clay-court dominance in win over Daniil Medvedev
It wasn't easy, but a more comfortable and decisive Tsitsipas earned an important win over Medvedev.
Published Jun 08, 2021
“A very Millennial shot,” is how Stefanos Tsitsipas described the final serve of his 6-3, 7-6 (3), 7-5 win over Daniil Medvedev in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros on Tuesday.
That Millennial shot was also the most memorable from this much-anticipated contest between the No 2 and 5 seeds. Down match point on his serve, Medvedev stepped up to the baseline and, instead of going into his normal service motion, dropped the ball and tapped an underhand serve softly over the net. Tsitsipas, recognizing the trick from his Next Gen rival right away, bolted forward and fired a backhand return down the line for a winner, and a trip to the semifinals.
“Once he took kind of like a short break, I saw he kind of stopped,” Tsitsipas said. “I felt like there was something coming up, so at that point I think I got prepared for it.”
Thus ended a quarterfinal that didn’t quite live up to its blockbuster billing. Coming in, it had all the makings of a classic. Both players were in peak form. Each had lost just one set in his previous four matches at Roland Garros, and each looked ready to make a run to the final. If anything, Medvedev had been even more impressive than Tsitsipas in his three-set win over Cristian Garin in the fourth round. During that match, his flat missile ground strokes seemed to find the corner every time.
But today, when Medvedev stepped up to try to fire those missiles again…they didn’t go in. The balls were there for him to hit, but this time he couldn’t connect. Forehands and backhands kept finding the net or sailing long. Medvedev, normally stingy with his errors, made 20 more than Tsitsipas (44 to 24). Worse, perhaps, was the fact that, after playing so well for the last nine days, Medvedev hadn’t expected to miss. When he did, all of his old doubts about clay resurfaced (pun intended).
“If [we’re] on hard courts I can take these balls early and take time from him,” Medvedev said. “I tried to do it also today but then you can get a small bad bounce; you’re not going to be prepared so well.”
“I was even kind of surprised the first set. That’s why it went so easy on his side because I didn’t expect such great level from him. I felt like I played good guys like [Alexander] Bublik, Garin, Tommy Paul, that played good from the baseline, and I felt that I was on top of them in the rallies, so I felt I could continue doing this today like on the hard courts.”
Bublik, Garin, and Paul are good players, but Tsitsipas is a level or three above them at the moment. Unlike Medvedev, Tsitsipas maintained his level from his earlier matches. He opened up the court with his serve, roamed the baseline searching for forehands to thrash, and finished decisively at the net. Tsitsipas was 24 of 32 up there, and he won 75 percent of his second-serve points compared to just 60 for Medvedev. In general, his topspin was more effective on this surface than Medvedev’s flatter shots.
“I felt like I was in favor,” Tsitsipas said. “I felt like I was kind of winning more points on my serve. I felt like I had a clearer plan of what I was doing.”
While Medvedev hit the worst shot of the night—that underhand serve—he also hit the most spectacular, a tweener lob that landed near the baseline. And at the end of the second set he did have a brief window of opportunity. With Tsitsipas serving at 4-5, Medvedev had two break points. On the first, he put a makable second-serve return into the net. On the second he sent a backhand wide. Then he started the tiebreaker off with two more backhand errors.
“Tennis is sometimes about a few points, so it’s a big pity that I didn't manage to close it out on 6-5,” Medvedev said. “I made a drop shot that he didn't even run to. It missed by some inches. I feel like yeah, that was the match.”
Medvedev was disappointed, he said, to have to play the night session, and blamed it on Roland Garros trying to make broadcast partner Amazon happy.
“Our match was definitely the match of the day, so Roland Garros preferred Amazon to people,” he said. “It’s easy as that.”
Meanwhile, Tsitsipas just kept doing what he’s been doing for the last two months—what he calls his “everyday hustle.” A clay season filled with excellent results—a title in Monaco, a final in Barcelona, close losses to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic—has had an effect on his confidence. He doesn’t rattle easily these days.
“I'm playing good, that will show by itself,” Tsitsipas said. “I don’t think there’s a player out there that thinks they can’t win the tournament…I think if I keep repeating the process, keep repeating the everyday hustle that I put, for sure there’s going to be a reward, and why not.”
Tsitsipas hustled up to knock off Medvedev’s final serve, and hustled through his post-match interview while hardly cracking a smile. He has more business to attend to: His reward for beating one Next Gen rival is a chance to take on another, Alexander Zverev, for a place in the Roland Garros final.