Novak Djokovic acknowledged he had rarely faced the sort of barrage a resilient Daniil Medvedev used so effectively to shock the world number one 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the Cincinnati Masters semi-finals on Saturday.
After losing the first set, Medvedev changed his approach midway through the second set, the Russian going for broke with pretty much every shot, particularly on second serve. The complexion of the match changed in a heartbeat as Medvedev overpowered the previously dominant Djokovic.
“I did not experience this too many times in my career that someone goes so big on second serves and just serves two first serves basically for an extended period of time,” the vanquished Serbian told reporters. “When someone serves a 128 miles-per-hour second serve and doesn’t make too many doubles faults and goes for every shot, you just have to put your hat down and congratulate him.”
Medvedev explained why he had switched tactics. “I was so tired in the first set and playing Novak, I thought I’m not going to be able to keep the intensity,” the world number eight said in a courtside interview. “Then there was one momentum change in the second and I just started playing unbelievable.”
Medvedev added that it was par for the course to go for broke on his second serve when trailing in a match. “I do it all the time when my second serve doesn’t work. Novak, he was destroying me on the second serve so at one moment, at three-all, love-30, I’m like ‘okay, what’s the matter.’”
He reeled off four successive points, including an ace on second serve, to hold and then broke Djokovic in the next game by ripping a winner down the line to seize the initiative. Medvedev, who also beat Djokovic in April at Monte Carlo, was playing Belgian David Goffin in the final last night.
It will be the third successive final for 23-year-old Medvedev, who lost to Nick Kyrgios in Washington and Rafa Nada in Montreal. Djokovic, meanwhile, will regroup for the US Open starting on Monday week, and he did not sound particularly concerned by his latest defeat, preferring instead to heap praise on his opponent.
“He played amazing tennis from 4-3 in the second set. Not much that I could really do. “He’s working his way to the top five (in the world). Today I did lose a tennis match, but I didn’t do too much wrong.”
The 16th seeded Goffin beat France’s Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-4 in the other semi-final. “I’m really happy,” said Goffin. “I’ve played the best tennis here in the past few years... It’s a great moment for me.”
A quick break saw Goffin surge to a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line in the first set. Gasquet grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second set before Goffin claimed five of the next six games. He won the set and the match when a Gasquet backhand was long. Goffin had received a walkover into the semi-finals after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw due to food poisoning. “It was almost a day off, so I was fresh and physically 100% today to play against Richard,” the Belgian said. Goffin added that he was “lost” after the walkover. “I didn’t know what to do. Do I have another practice session, go to the physio and have some treatment? I didn’t know,” the Belgian said. “I decided to go on the court for some practice and do what I normally do after.”
There was an upset in the women’s draw as well, as Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated top-seeded Australian Ashleigh Barty 6-2, 6-4.
Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion who has been hindered lately by injury, will be in search of her 19th WTA title – and her first in more than a year – when she takes on American Madison Keys in the final.
Keys, the 2017 US Open runner-up, defeated compatriot Sofia kenin 7-5, 6-4. Kuznetsova denied Barty a chance to reclaim the world number one ranking, which the Australian would have done by reaching the final.
Instead the triumph by 34-year-old Kuznetsova leaves injured Naomi Osaka atop the rankings with the US Open starting a week from Monday. Barty, who had rallied from a set down in each of her previous two matches, was off the boil against Kuznetsova, who is back on form after several seasons of injuries, including a wrist problem.
“This was a week that I battled through,” Barty said. “At times I played some good stuff. At times I played some pretty awful stuff. I’ve learned a lot from this week, and there are nothing but positives going into New York.”
Keys booked her finals spot as she won an all-American match littered with 12 breaks of serve. She earned match points with a flick volley winner angled steeply cross-court and amazed herself with the get.
“I looked at my box in shock,” she admitted. “I’m really feeling great about my tennis. “When I was down break points in the second set, I was just thinking that I knew I could break back, that was my biggest thought.
“I’m super-happy to be in my first final here. I love getting matches under my belt before a Grand Slam.”
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