Tsitsipas through but title credentials still in question, Medvedev oozing confidence
The second seed and the fourth seed both reached the second week of the Australian Open, but one is likely to be much happier with his displays than the other
Stefanos Tsitsipas must have been relieved to get through to the fourth round of the Australian Open in four sets against the wildly mercurial Benoit Paire 6-3, 7-5, 6-7(2), 6-4 – so much so that he didn’t actually realise he had won the match until he noticed his family and friends celebrating wildly in the stands.
He proceeded directly to an ice bath, and then to his press conference, still shivering.
“It feels good to be playing and be part of the last 16. I’m happy with the match today,” said the fourth seed, who brushed off any queries about his physical condition, reiterating that his elbow is absolutely fine after recent surgery. “I feel like there were certain moments where my opponent didn’t work as hard as I had to do for the point. It was just one-shot execution from his side, serving really well, coming up with good shots like meaning one, two…
“I’m happy with the way I fought at the end. He certainly didn’t have to work as hard as I did for the points, but that paid off at the end with me being consistent and patient when I had to be.”
Fritz – Tsitsipas not a bad match-up for me
The Greek, however, does not have the kind of indomitable aura he would wish – he does not as yet instil dread into his forthcoming opponents. He next faces Taylor Fritz, who was reasonably optimistic about his chances.
“Stef and I have played, I think we’ve only played once since in the pros but we played quite a bit in the juniors,” the American said in his press conference. “We’ve definitely had some battles, but I feel like it’s not a bad match-up for me at all.”
When asked earlier in the week to name the best male players on hard courts, Tsitsipas mentioned Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Rafael Nadal. He added his own name once prompted, but might perhaps be a little nervous that he has needed four sets to win both his second and third round matches. The other three he named have either won all three matches in straight sets (Zverev) or dropped one set across all three rounds (Medvedev, who dropped a set to home favourite Nick Kyrgios, and Nadal, who dropped a set to 28th seed Karen Khachanov). Fritz has already taken out 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut and will prove a real test of Tsitsipas’s title credentials.
Medvedev – I hate to lose
Medvedev, however, had a much easier time of it against Botic van de Zandschulp. The two met in the quarter-final of the 2021 US Open, which the Russian won in four; this time round, the eventual New York champion was better prepared, progressing 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
“Today was I think the best match [I played in this tournament, because to be honest, the score doesn’t say everything about the match,” said the world No 2 afterwards. “Botic played really good. I even want to say he played, I think in my opinion, better than in US Open but maybe served a little bit worse, and that’s where I took my chances. Almost like every game where I could break him I managed to do it. I think I had two games where I didn’t break him when I had break points, but it was enough today.
“And, yeah, pretty happy about my level. Served well. Didn’t get broken, even if he had opportunities. Was running pretty well. Yeah, was doing some good shots. Happy about my performance and looking forward to the next match.”
If you want to be at the top, top, you need to make it almost perfect, because other guys will try to break you and your style.Daniil Medvedev
He did, however, sound a note of caution while admitting that coming to Melbourne with a Grand Slam under his belt did create confidence.
“Maybe a little bit more confidence, but the thing is that even when I was, I don’t know, 50 in the world, of course, probably not going to win a Grand Slam, but I wanted to win,” he said. “I hate to lose. I want to win every match I play. But definitely some extra confidence just by knowing that this is possible, and if not, I mean, every match is tough.”
And Medvedev’s next opponent will certainly be tough – the American serve-and-volleyer Maxime Cressy, providing a rather different obstacle to most players on the ATP Tour.
“I do think it’s possible, yeah, to be a top player like this,” mused Medvedev. “But like no matter what you do, slice, serve and volley, or return good, if you want to be at the top, top, you need to make it almost perfect, because other guys will try to break you and your style.”
That will be his task on Monday.