When Daniil Medvedev is on autopilot, is there anyone who can shut him down?
We’ll find out if world No. 1 Novak Djokovic—a champion with his own zen-sational capabilities—has a yes answer come Sunday, after Medvedev reached his first Australian Open final with a 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas.
"I got a little bit scared and tight, because it's the semifinal of a Slam," he told Jim Courier. "It was not easy, but I'm happy I was able to turn my game on, especially in some tight moments on my serve."
Asked by Courier what he does when he gets scared, Medvedev said, "I just try to hit aces and winners. Or put the ball in the court."
The No. 4 seed has now won 20 consecutive matches, a stretch that has seen him defeat 12 Top 10 opponents after improving to 6-1 lifetime against Tsitsipas. Medvedev is through to his second major final, having lost to Rafael Nadal in five sets at the 2019 US Open, and is 3-4 versus Djokovic.
Medvedev won the pair’s most recent meeting at last November’s ATP Finals, but Djokovic took their only Grand Slam clash two years ago in the round of 16 at Melbourne Park. The Serbian, bidding for his 18th major crown, is a perfect 8-0 in Australian Open finals.
"I like that I don't have a lot of pressure, because he never lost in eight times that he was here in the final. It's him who has all the pressure, getting to Roger and Rafa in the Grand Slams," Medvedev stated. "I just hope I'm going to get out there, show my best tennis. As we've seen, I can win [against] some good names if I play good. He has for sure more experience, but more things to lose than me."
The pro-Greek crowd endeavored to provide Tsitsipas a boost when the match began, but the 2019 US Open finalist proved difficult to read on his first serve in the opening set: Medvedev produced five aces and regularly set himself up for one-two punches, while the No. 5 seed put just seven of 18 first-serve returns in play.
When the two engaged in extended rallies, Medvedev’s upper hand enticed Tsitsipas to pull the trigger, resulting in his backhand breaking down for six of his 11 unforced errors, while producing a single winner. The Russian, on the other hand, disguised his racquet head well in redirecting exchanges.
Medvedev kept pressing early in the second, showing his forehand up the line was just as deadly in ending a 12-point game to break for 2-1. He poured it on as the set progressed, setting up 0-40 with a dazzling backhand curl past the charging Tsitsipas, and followed that shot up with an inside-in forehand return winner. His first serve remained untouchable, as he closed with two more aces to finish with a 15 for 16 success rate.
With a heaviness about his movement, Tsitsipas looked all but out in the third set when he went down an early break. However, after fending off two break points to avoid falling behind 1-4, the 22-year-old capitalized on a loose game by Medvedev to get back on serve.
Transferring the crowd’s energy into his body language, Tsitsipas regained some pep in his step, and came within two points of extending Medvedev’s day at the office in the 10th game. The Moscow native wasn't having it, regaining his machine mode in winning 12 of the final 14 points, including an out-stretched backhand pass up the line for his fifth break, to advance after two hours and nine minutes.
"Let me tell you that he's a player who has unlocked pretty much everything in the game. It's like he's reading the game really well," Tsitsipas said in his press conference. "He has this amazing serve which I would describe close to John Isner's serve. And then he has amazing baseline which makes it extremely difficult.
"He tricks you. He plays the game really smart. It's really interesting to see that."
Medvedev is the third Russian man to reach the title match at Melbourne Park, and looks to join 2005 champion Marat Safin in the champion's club.