Daniil Medvedev showcased his champion mentality Friday as he stepped up and delivered under pressure once again to return to the Australian Open final.
The second seed demonstrated a mixture of quality and grit under the lights on Rod Laver Arena, overcoming fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a high-quality match to set up a final showdown against Rafael Nadal.
“Some matches are very even,” Medvedev said in his on-court interview. “I missed some balls at a few moments where I could have got a break and he missed a few at the start of the third set. Then from 5-4 in the third [set] I just found some momentum and started to read his serve and put every ball in. I hit some very important passing shots and his energy went down because of this and my energy went up.”
The Russian, who reached the championship match in Melbourne last year (l. to Djokovic), targeted the Greek’s backhand from the baseline with his flat and powerful groundstrokes throughout. Medvedev hit 39 winners and broke four times to advance after two hours and 30 minutes.
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The 25-year-old now leads Tsitsipas 7-2 in their ATP Head2Head series, having also defeated the World No. 4 at the same stage in Melbourne last season. Medvedev is aiming to win his second Grand Slam title, after triumphing at the US Open in September. He will also become the first player to follow his maiden major trophy with his second at the next Grand Slam event if he beats Nadal on Sunday.
The World No. 2 will meet Nadal in the final after the sixth seed defeated Italy’s Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in two hours and 55 minutes. Nadal leads Medvedev 3-1 in their ATP Head2Head series and is targeting a record-breaking 21st major trophy in Melbourne. The Spaniard survived a spirited comeback from Medvedev in the US Open final in 2019, prevailing in five sets after the 25-year-old rallied from two sets down.
On facing Nadal, Medvedev said: “I am going to play again against one of the greatest and against someone going for their 21st Grand Slam. Grand Slam finals are special and I can remember the final against Rafa at the  US Open. It was my first final and we played for about five hours. We have played a few matches since then and I am ready.”
Since the start of last season, Medvedev has gone 19-1 at hard-court majors. This fortnight the 13-time tour-level titlist has edged Nick Kyrgios and Maxime Cressy in four sets, before he saved a match point en route to his five-set victory against Felix Auger-Aliassime in the quarter-finals. His two other wins at Melbourne Park came against Henri Laaksonen and Botic van de Zandschulp.
“After the match with Felix I spoke to my coach and said, ‘How will I do it on Friday?’,” Medvedev added. “I sat down in the locker room and was so dead, barely could move. But I tried to recover well and the next day I woke up and the moment I opened my eyes I thought it was not too bad and I could recover and that is what happened. I am happy today that it was not five hours so I can recover for the next one.”
The return of @DaniilMedwed 🇷🇺
The world No.2 is back in the #AusOpen men’s singles final, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6 (5) 4-6 6-4 6-1.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 28, 2022
In a tight and hard-fought match, little separated the pair in the first set as Medvedev looked to target the World No. 4’s backhand from the baseline, while Tsitsipas used the drop shot to bring the Russian to the net. At 4-4, Tsitsipas passed the first test of the clash as he fended off four break points to hold as they moved to a tie-break. From 1/4 behind, Medvedev rallied and conjured up a set point with a backhand winner down the line. He then sealed the 49-minute set when Tsitsipas fired a forehand wide.
However, the Greek did not let this setback affect him, breaking immediately at the start of the second set as he continued to use his heavy topspin forehand to keep Medvedev pinned back. The second seed did respond by breaking back, but he gifted the initiative back to Tsitsipas with a double fault at 30/40 4-4 and the 23-year-old made no mistake on serve to level, roaring in delight as he marched back to his chair.
Medvedev regained his focus in the third set though in front of a raucous crowd, winning 89 per cent (16/18) of his first-serve points before he capitalised on a few errors from Tsitsipas in the 10th game to move ahead. The Russian then raced to the finish line in the fourth set as he maintained his high level, firing his aggressive groundstrokes through the court with great depth to secure his statement win.
Tsitsipas was aiming to reach the final in Melbourne for the first time, having fallen at the semi-final stage in 2019 and 2021. The Greek, whose best result at a major was a run to the championship match at Roland Garros last year, earned impressive wins against American Taylor Fritz and World No. 10 Jannik Sinner en route to the last four.
Did You Know?
By reaching his fourth Grand Slam final, Medvedev has equalled Marat Safin’s record for most major final appearances by a Russian man.