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Daniil Medvedev continued his charge towards a maiden Grand Slam title by easing past Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Australian Open semifinals.

Medvedev gave the pro-Tsitsipas crowd on Friday night little reason to cheer thanks to his 6-4 6-2 7-5 victory, two days after the Greek stunned 20-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal with a rousing two-set comeback.

Medvedev isn’t yet a Grand Slam winner — downed by Nadal in a thrilling 2019 US Open final — but don’t count him out from opening his account Sunday even in facing the King of Melbourne Park, Novak Djokovic.

“It was my first Grand Slam final against one of the greatest,” Medvedev said in his on-court interview. “I’m going to come against one of the other greatest.”

But in sizzling form. Medvedev has now claimed 12 consecutive matches against top-10 opposition and boosted his winning streak overall to 20 matches – equaling the tally of women’s finalist Naomi Osaka. One of those came against Djokovic, the eight-time Australian Open winner.

The Russian moves tremendously well and counterpunches with aplomb but also benefits from a massive serve.

Against Tsitsipas, he struck 17 aces and won 88 per cent of points behind his first serve. Overall he registered 46 winners, coupled with a mere 21 unforced errors.

Tsitsipas, meanwhile, couldn’t duplicate his heroics of the final three sets against Nadal, despite a brief rally in the third. Three aces and a differential of minus-11 in winners and unforced errors cost him dearly.

He might have been fatigued, both mentally and physically, following the four-hour battle, and Medvedev suggested as much.

“I saw that as soon as I was moving him around the court, it was not easy for him,” said Medvedev. “As soon as I saw it in the first set, that became my strategy straight away.”

But even in peak condition, Medvedev would have been extremely difficult to topple.

The Russian laid down a marker on the very first point, his penetrating ground strokes giving Tsitsipas little opportunity. Tsitsipas, though, held for 1-0.

Medvedev and great pal Andrey Rublev contested a 43-shot rally in the quarterfinals — won by Rublev — and a 25-stroke exchange came in the fourth game.

This time, Medvedev won it. Lured in by a short Tsitsipas slice cross court, he ripped a backhand down the line.

He broke through in the next game, crunching two more backhands down the line for a 3-2 advantage.

Rolling through his service games, Medvedev stuttered ever so slightly trying to see out the opener at 5-4.

From 40-15, Tsitsipas rallied to deuce, giving his numerous supporters armed with Greek flags hope.

On a third set point, Medvedev sent a double fault long before, however, thumping an ace and service winner.

Tsitsipas said being “serene” proved key in his comeback against Nadal, but visible signs of frustration crept in on Friday. He flung his water bottle to the ground after being broken for 1-2 in the second.

Nicknamed the “Octopus” for the way he reels in opponents — Medvedev celebrated his 25th birthday last week with a blue octopus cake — the world No.4 held for 3-1.

If anyone needed more evidence of how well Medvedev counters, it happened at 4-2.

He began with a backhand passing shot, followed by defending in the forehand corner, prompting a Tsitsipas error on the next ball, and reached 0-40 with a dipper of a backhand pass.

How did he end the game? With a forehand return winner.

Medvedev won 12 of the last 13 points to take a two-set lead.

There was no Houdini-esque escape for world No.6 Tsitsipas — who would have overtaken Roger Federer in the rankings with victory — in successive rounds, although he did mount a brief comeback.

His tactics switched, becoming more conservative in rallies.

Tsitsipas still trailed 1-3 and looked to be on his way out when facing two break points.

They weren’t capitalised upon by his foe. Medvedev switched off, and Tsitsipas carved out his first two break points — and converted — at 2-3.

“I got a little bit scared and tight because it’s a semifinal of a Slam,” said Medvedev.

Suddenly the affair had come to life and the crowd got what they wanted. Their support surely helped Tsitsipas move to 4-3 and it was almost even better for his fans.

A rattled Medvedev stared at another break chance at 30-40, prior to cracking three big serves.

A little luck, perhaps, rescued Medvedev at 4-5. Down 0-30, the Russian sent a first serve long.

But with movement behind him — with Tsitsipas pointing it out — a let was played. Medvedev took advantage and uncorked a beauty for 15-30, then a hold.

Even the Tsitsipas supporters had to applaud — at Medvedev’s urging — when he curled an astonishing backhand pass down the line to break for 6-5.

Soon the match was Medvedev’s and both players met cordially at the net, after their heated contest in Miami in 2018.

With one more win, a Grand Slam trophy will belong to the Russian in this golden men’s era dominated by the Big Three.

Source: Ravi Ubha

www.sports24ghana.com

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