AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Medvedev survives Auger-Aliassime in a four-hour marathon

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Félix Auger-Aliassime tried to find the positives. He had Daniil Medveded on the ropes for almost three hours. He was in position to win in straight sets and had match point in the fourth set, one shot away from a place in the Australian Open semi-finals.

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Then came Medvedev’s act of escape, finding his peak form when it mattered most, coming back from the brink to finally finish the 4:42 marathon 6-7, 3-6, 7-6, 7-5, 6 -4 to end the Canadian’s hopes of reaching his second consecutive Grand Slam semi-final.

“You step onto the pitch, you don’t want to have any regrets,” Auger-Aliassime told reporters after the game. “I can go back and think I wish I had made different choices or wished Daniil hadn’t played so well at times. But, yeah, it was a good effort.

“At the end of the day, I can’t regret the effort I put in and the chances I gave myself.”

Medveded will now face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals. Rafael Nadal, who knocked out Denis Shapovalov in the quarter-finals on Tuesday, will face Matteo Berrettini in the other semi-final.

Medvedev is seeded second and was the heavy favorite going into the game. On his way to winning the US Open last September – his first Grand Slam title – he beat Auger-Aliassime in the semi-finals.

Coming out of the gate, however, it was Auger-Aliassime, 21, who was at the top of his game. He was brilliant on his own serve and beat Medvedev in his own set of extended base rallies to win the first two sets.

Gradually, Medvedev raised his level, pushing the third set to a tiebreaker. With Medvedev leading 2-1, there was a seven-minute rain delay to allow the stadium roof to cover the pitch. Medvedev, who went on to win the tiebreaker 7-2, said it was a turning point.

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“When they closed the roof, I felt the momentum change,” he said in an on-pitch interview immediately after the game.

Still, Auger-Aliassime had match point against Medvedev’s serve at 5-4 in the fourth set, but the Russian showed his composure and experience by using the trouble. He then turned things around by receiving the break of serve he needed to close out the set.

Then came the decisive service break at 1-1 in the fifth set. Auger-Aliassime, the ninth seed, needed a medical timeout midway through the final set to get his right foot back together, but didn’t come off easily. With Medvedev serving for the match, Auger-Aliassime had two break points. Once again, however, the Russian came back to find something special to close out the contest.

“It’s no surprise he’s where he is now,” Auger-Aliassime said. “He fights. He tries to find solutions. He plays well when needed. I think he was just a bit more clutch than me, a bit more solid sometimes. It also comes with experience, I think But I look forward to the next time I can put myself in this situation. I believe I can cross that line.

Medvedev, accustomed to controversy, often plays the villain role for fans. He added to this story by saying he had searched his inner Novak Djokovic to find a way. Djokovic, of course, was kicked out of Australia ahead of the tournament for failing to adhere to the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.

“I was down 2-0 (in sets) and not playing my best and Felix was playing amazing,” Medvedev said. ” I did not know what to do. I thought to myself what would Novak (Djokovic) do? I just thought I had to make him work and fight until the last point. And it worked. I managed to raise the level of my game.”

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His stability and defensive abilities, especially in long baseline rallies, make it difficult for opponents to gain an advantage. From the start, however, Auger-Aliassime latched onto him, winning more than his share of the extended points. A superb counter-puncher himself, Auger-Aliassime made few mistakes.

Medvedev lacked his usual basic rally control and his serve let him down with crucial double faults, including a pair in the opening set tiebreaker.

Auger-Aliassime maintained his high level to open the second set and took full control with an early break from Medvedev, whose serve began to break. Auger-Aliassime also dictated the course of rallies from the baseline with near-perfect precision. The 21-year-old also showed skill at the net in his volleys.

Typically a quick player, Medvedev took longer between points, trying to find answers. They didn’t come as Auger-Aliassime took a 6-3 second victory.

In straight sets, there were few flaws in his game. His first-serve percentage was 83%, compared to Medvedev’s 55%. Auger-Aliassime also caught 71% of his second-serve points.

Auger-Aliassime produced 15 wins and nine unforced errors. Medvedev, on the other hand, managed just four winners against 11 unforced errors.

Overall, there were few holes in Auger-Aliassime’s game. Nothing is easy, however. In the fifth and final set, Medvedev was on point, just a little better than the Canadian.

“It sucks to lose at the end, but that’s life,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I just have to accept it.”

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