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Medvedev knocks out Sinner in drama-filled five-set thriller

Spring in the step: Medvedev seemed to find fresh legs whenever he needed them. | Photo: Reuters

Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner have been each other’s bogeymen. Until September 2023, Medvedev had won all six of their encounters only for Sinner to reverse the tide in the next five.

The acme was the 2024 Australian Open final where the Russian, for the second time in Melbourne, cracked under the weight of history to blow a two-sets-to-love lead.

On Tuesday, Medvedev nearly faltered again before composing himself to finish on the right side of a capricious five-setter 6-7(7), 6-4, 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3 and enter his second successive Wimbledon semifinal.

Medvedev will take on defending champion Carlos Alcaraz, who beat American Tommy Paul 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. The 10th meeting between Sinner and Alcaraz, widely acknowledged as this generation’s defining rivalry, will have to wait.

“If you have to beat Jannik, it has to be a tough match,” Medvedev said after the marathon. “He is not anymore a guy who can be beaten easily. I played at a high level, great points, and I am happy.”

Big hitters both, their primary strategy was to win free points off their serves. In this, Sinner shaded Medvedev early on. In the opening set, the Italian won 23 of the 25 points when he landed his first serve, and put most balls back on the return.

Highlights reel

The top seed also had more shots for the highlights reel, with his whipped forehand and the half-knelt backhand eliciting from the audience many a gasp and whoop.

But Medvedev, with his noodle-strap body and shovelling racquet technique, stayed within touching distance, bringing to the fore his deceptively efficient shot-making. He was solid from the backcourt and lethal when he advanced, winning seven out of eight net-points.

In the tie-break, Sinner blinked first, serving a double fault at 5-5. But having won the last eight he had played, he knew his way out and duly claimed the set.

However, having drawn first blood, Sinner relaxed for a fleeting moment and Medvedev pounced, breaking him in the third game of the second. The 28-year-old took it 6-4 and broke Sinner again in the third game of the third.

Both times Sinner lost serve, it was his forehand that proved his undoing, a stroke that also wobbled during his fourth-round win over Ben Shelton.

The World No. 1 seemed physically compromised too as he had his temperature checked and was ushered off the court for a time-out.

But he came back rejuvenated, breaking back in the 10th game of the third set and holding to 6-5. On the subsequent Medvedev serve, he earned two set-points, but an ace and a backhand unforced error negated both.

Yet, Sinner very much seemed like he was on the ascendency and tie-break was his safe space. However, his forehand broke down again and he lost four of the seven points from that wing.

In the fourth set, though, Sinner came back guns blazing, levelling the match with ease. But Medvedev didn’t leave his best tennis buried in the drawer for too long. At 2-1 in the fifth, he pressured the Sinner serve with two winners straight up.

And Sinner succumbed by serving a double-fault and following it up with a forehand error. Medvedev had one foot in the semifinal. And soon he dragged the whole of his body over the line.

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