Tennis: Medvedev wins five-setter to join Russian charge at Australian Open

Daniil Medvedev had never won a five-set match in six previous attempts.
Daniil Medvedev had never won a five-set match in six previous attempts.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Daniil Medvedev was forced to dig deep to fight off a charging Filip Krajinovic on Saturday (Feb 13) but came through 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-0 to extend his winning streak to 17 matches and join the Russian charge into the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Medvedev, who had lost the only previous encounter between the two players at Indian Wells in 2019, breezed through the first two sets but looked seriously rattled when Krajinovic won the third and went up a break in the fourth.

It was the fourth seed's first dropped set of the tournament and he forced his coach Gilles Cervara from the otherwise empty stands at Rod Laver Arena with a couple of vicious verbal volleys before taking an injury timeout.

Krajinovic, who spent his pre-tournament quarantine practising with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, was unrelenting after finding some success preying on Medvedev's forehand, though, and sent the contest into a fifth set.

"He played unbelievable, especially in the fourth set," said Medvedev. "He raised his level."

Medvedev had never won a five-set match in six previous attempts but a second trip to the toilets did the trick and he broke the Serbian for 2-0 in the decider with a crunching forehand winner.

The 25-year-old faced little resistance for the rest of the match from Krajinovic, who was earlier slapped with a code violation for not wearing a mask when going to the toilet.

Medvedev, who next faces American Mackenzie McDonald, anticipated no problems with his coach after their contretemps.

"He said just before leaving that he's sure I'm gonna win the match but he's gonna leave me alone to be more calm," he said. "I think it was a good thing to do."

In the women's draw, world No. 1 Ashleigh  Barty overcame a stumbling start to reach the fourth round with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Ekaterina Alexandrova at an empty Margaret Court Arena.

The 24-year-old would have expected the backing of a fiercely partisan crowd for a weekend evening match at her home Grand Slam, but Melbourne’s five-day lockdown left her playing in front of officials, ball kids and coaches.

While most other players have seen plenty of empty courts on the WTA Tour over the last year, it was a new experience for Barty, who elected to stay home while the Covid-19 pandemic raged around the world.

“It’s very strange, I’ve never experienced it before in my life,” she said. “It changes the sound of the court. Bit rude but I like it. I love the crowd but I loved the sound of the ball.”

Barty said she had been happy with how effective her slice backhand had been, although she conceded that she possibly went to it too often.

“I’ve never played with her before and never hit with her before,” she said of her opponent.

“I just had to figure out where I wanted to place the ball and change my patterns, but I was happy with the run I was able to get on.”

Barty, who is looking to become the first home-grown Australian Open singles champion since 1978, will play American Shelby Rogers for a place in the quarter-finals.

Medvedev joined compatriot Aslan Karatsev in the fourth round after the Russian qualifier manufactured a straight sets upset of Diego Schwartzman on Friday.

Seventh seed Andrey Rublev later made it a trio of Russians in the last 16 with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 victory over 39-year-old Spaniard Feliciano Lopez on Margaret Court Arena.

"I feel physically great, I haven't had long matches so far and I feel fresh," said Rublev, who will next face Casper Ruud with Medvedev looming in the quarter-finals.

Stefanos Tsitsipas barely broke sweat as he swept past Swede Mikael Ymer 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 to book a date with Italian Matteo Berrettini, who downed Russian Karen Khachanov in three tiebreak sets.

Khachanov's loss meant Russia missed out on an Open era record four men in the last 16 of a Grand Slam.