Tennis: Daniil Medvedev subdues Frances Tiafoe challenge at Australian Open

Russia's Daniil Medvedev (left) shakes hands with Frances Tiafoe of the US after their match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 21, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE (AFP) - Fourth-seed Daniil Medvedev navigated a challenging first-round clash against last year's quarter-finalist Frances Tiafoe to kickstart his Australian Open campaign Tuesday.

The 23-year-old, who won four titles last year and was runner-up at the US Open, ultimately showed his class to outlast the American 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena.

It was a tough workout for the in-form Medvedev, who began his year strongly at the ATP Cup, winning four of his five singles matches.

He is gunning for a maiden Grand Slam title.

"It was a really tough first match, it was up and down for both of us. A first round is never easy, especially against someone like Frances," said the Russian.

"There were many moments where I felt I had momentum, but he straightaway came back.

"I think I could do many things better, but it is a big win and I'm happy to be through."

It was always going to be a difficult assignment against Tiafoe, who was looking to repeat his glory run at the Australian Open last year.

Ranked No. 50, Tiafoe was broken twice to slip 4-1 behind in the first set, with Medvedev's power proving too much.

He bounced back with a break and pressed hard for another.

But the Russian - who made the round of 16 last year, losing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic - produced some sizzling passing shots and deft drops to take the set.

They went game-for-game in the second set until Tiafoe broke in a decisive ninth game and levelled at one set all as he lifted to another level.

Another tight set followed. But a loose service game from the American gave Medvedev a 2-1 lead, sealing the set with another impressive drop shot.

The Russian scored a crucial break on Tiafoe's opening serve in the fourth set and the American, who threw his racket to the ground in frustration, was unable to recover.

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