The Russian meteor Daniil Medvedev picked up at least some fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium in a big win over Stan Wawrinka during a four-setter to reach his first U.S. Open semifinal Tuesday.
He’s the hottest player on tour, but has played the role of villain during the Open. But there were only scattered boos at Ashe during his 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win as the fifth seed deconstructed the former Open champion despite dealing with his own quadriceps injury.
In his first Grand Slam quarterfinal, the 25-year-old Medvedev, who took the court to some booing, claimed he injured his quadriceps on the match’s first point and needed a painkiller that he believes finally kicked in during the fourth and final set.
“It was a really big pain in my quadriceps and I thought I would not continue the match in the first set,’’ Medvedev said. “So I really feel strange about this match.”
Medvedev elaborated, saying he played a herky-jerky game, slowing the pace at some junctures because of his taped-up leg. Medvedev survived nine double faults in the first set alone and won an 8-6 tiebreaker when he cleaned up his serve. The nine double faults equaled his high for the year for a match.
Medvedev said, after he got up 2-0 in the set, he wasn’t quitting, though he didn’t play his normal style.
“I thought the way I won was quite ugly,’’ Medvedev said. “I’m still really painful in my leg. I had to play without rhythm. Some games I have to not run to relax my leg. I was hitting full power, then suddenly I was doing drop shots in the middle. I knew I should not give him any rhythm and in crucial moments make him miss. I prefer to win in a normal way.’’
Since Wimbledon, the 6-foot-6 Russian has reeled off an 18-2 record, cleaning up on the summer hard courts, upsetting Novak Djokovic in the last Open tune-up on the way to the title in Cincinnati. Now he has a real Open title shot despite a potential semifinal showdown against Roger Federer. The good news is he has two days off to heal.
“I feel real lucky,’’ Medvedev said.
Medvedev’s quirky personality was on display during his third-round match when he ripped a towel from a ballboy, drawing boos. When he sat for the changeover, he mischievously held up his middle finger by his head. Some fans saw it live. Those who didn’t caught the vulgar display on the video-screen replay later and he was booed the rest of the match.
Medvedev trolled the crowd in his post-match interview on the court last week, repeatedly telling the fans he couldn’t have won without their “energy.’’ In the fourth round, the boos continued and Medvedev continued to goad the fans by thanking them profusely for their support.
It was different this time though. The fans were clearly pulling for Wawrinka, the 34-year-old marathon man from Switzerland, to make a comeback after dropping the first two sets, but boos were scarce.
“What I got is what I deserved,’’ Medvedev said. “ Usually I’m not like this. I’m working to be better. Hopefully I will show the bright side of myself.”
His coach Gilles Cervara said Medvedev is just a different bird.
“I said already what it’s like to coach a genius,’’ Cervara said. “Sometimes a genius, you don’t understand them. It’s like this. They are different. And you have to connect to this guy like he is.”
Wawrinka didn’t sound like he bought Medvedev’s threats at quitting because of his injury.
“Not really important,’’ Wawrinka said. “I saw him saying the last two matches that he didn’t feel he could play; but he’s still winning, still playing better and better the more the match goes. Some players like to show everybody they have pain. I’m pretty sure all the players, 95 percent, we all have pain.’’
Medvedev seemed like he’d like the support in the Open semifinals. But that won’t happen if it’s against Federer.
When asked to describe his Open run in two words, Medvedev said, “electric and controversy.’’
“I try to be myself guys,’’ Medvedev told the crowd Tuesday. “ I have to say sorry guys and thank you.’’
Some boos ensued but there were plenty more cheers.
Cervara, his coach, said he thought the fans treated him “quite well.”
“I hope so, because he doesn’t have anything against anybody,” Cervara said.
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