Medvedev’s rise hits new height

Third-seeded Rus­sian wins in straight sets to reach 1st Slam fi­nal

The Morning Call - - BASEBALL - By Howard Fendrich

NEW YORK — Daniil Medvedev first made a name for him­self at the U.S. Open by earn­ing the wrath of spec­ta­tors. Now he’s gain­ing every­one’s re­spect as he heads to his first Grand Slam fi­nal.

The No. 5-seeded Rus­sian has gone from trolling an­gry crowds at Flush­ing Mead­ows to play­ing for the ti­tle af­ter beat­ing un­seeded Grigor Dim­itrov 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-3 in the semi­fi­nals Fri­day un­der Arthur Ashe Sta­dium’s closed re­tractable roof.

Dur­ing his on-court in­ter­view, Medvedev ref­er­enced his “tour­na­ment of con­tro­ver­sies,” which in­cluded ac­cu­mu­lat­ing $19,000 in fines and an­tag­o­niz­ing boo­ing fans last week, say­ing he knew it was “not go­ing to be easy with the pub­lic.”

Medvedev’s ten­nis was a bit scratchy Fri­day, and he barely avoided drop­ping the open­ing set, but he did just enough with his mostly de­fen­sive style to get past Dim­itrov, who had elim­i­nated Roger Fed­erer in a five-set quar­ter­fi­nal.

In Sun­day’s fi­nal, Medvedev will face ei­ther 18-time ma­jor cham­pion Rafael Nadal or Mat­teo Ber­ret­tini, a 23-year-old from Italy seeded 24th.

Medvedev, 23, said he planned to watch that se­cond semi­fi­nal, with “pop­corn, in front of TV.”

The 6-foot-6 Medvedev hadn’t even been past the fourth round at a Slam un­til this one. He’s been the tour’s top player over the re­cent hard-court cir­cuit, though, reach­ing three other fi­nals on the sur­face. Medvedev has won 20 of his last 22 matches and leads the tour with 50 vic­to­ries in 2019.

He drew all sorts of at­ten­tion dur­ing Week 1 at the U.S. Open. In his third-round vic­tory, fans got on him for an­grily snatch­ing and toss­ing away a towel from a ballper­son, then for hold­ing up his mid­dle fin­ger against the side of his face. When they let him hear it at the end of the match, jeer­ing loudly, he basked in it, ask­ing for more noise and sar­cas­ti­cally thank­ing them. There was a sim­i­lar dis­play af­ter his next win, too.

On Fri­day, the stands seemed to have more peo­ple pulling for Dim­itrov than Medvedev, but once again, that didn’t mat­ter.

At No. 78, Dim­itrov was head­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, los­ing seven of his last eight matches be­fore get­ting to New York. That’s why a player once ranked No. 3 was down to No. 78, mak­ing him the low­est semi­fi­nal­ist at the U.S. Open since 1991, when Jimmy Con­nors — who was in the stands Fri­day — was out of the top 150.

Dim­itrov sure should have gone up a set early. He was a point away while lead­ing 6-5 as Medvedev served. But Medvedev played ag­gres­sively there, us­ing a big fore­hand to get to the net and take that point, then turned to his guest box and barked some­thing. The en­su­ing tiebreaker was filled with er­rors by both, clos­ing with a fore­hand into the net by Dim­itrov and an­other that he sailed long.

Truth be told, nei­ther was all that el­e­gant or ex­cel­lent in that first set.

Yet Medvedev man­aged to take it, even though Dim­itrov dom­i­nated pretty much ev­ery sta­tis­ti­cal cat­e­gory. Dim­itrov won more points, 43-41. He com­piled twice as many to­tal win­ners, 14-7. He made fewer un­forced er­rors, 18-15.

The se­cond set came down to the last game, when Dim­itrov’s in­con­sis­tency was again on dis­play. Af­ter one spec­tac­u­lar point, which drew a stand­ing ova­tion, he paused to take a look at a re­play on the over­head videoboard. Soon af­ter that, though, he hit a medi­ocre ap­proach that al­lowed Medvedev to strike a down-the-line back­hand win­ner for set point. Dim­itrov fol­lowed with a back­hand into the net and hung his head.

CLIVE BRUNSKILL/GETTY

Daniil Medvedev celebrates af­ter his 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-3 semi­fi­nal vic­tory Fri­day.

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