The Russian is in the semi-finals at the Australian Open and is on course for the second major title – and for the top of the world rankings.
Even without the great dominator Novak Djokovic, the men’s tournament at the Australian Open offers the best entertainment. The quality of the quarterfinals was high, three of the four games went the full distance of five sets. Only Stefanos Tsitsipas qualified directly for his third semi-final Down Under against the young Italian Jannik Sinner (6: 3, 6: 4, 6: 2).
Medvedev in dire need
There the 23-year-old Greek meets the top favorite Daniil Medvedev on Friday. The Russian was in the final in Melbourne a year ago and won his first major title at the US Open in September. On Wednesday, however, his win against Felix Auger-Aliassime hung by a thread. The 21-year-old Canadian led 2-0 sets and got a first match point in the fourth when the score was 5-4. Still, he ended up empty-handed. Medvedev found the kick at the decisive moment and won 6: 7, 3: 6, 7: 6, 7: 5, 6: 4.
Never count @DaniilMedwed out 🙅♂️
From two-sets-to-love down, the world No.2 completes the comeback to defeat Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-7(4) 3-6 7-6(2) 7-5 6-4 and advance to his second consecutive #OffOpen semifinal.#AO2022 pic.twitter.com/Pbel08qtGM
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 26, 2022
The match remained high-class and dramatic until the last rally. When Medvedev served to the match, Auger-Aliassime got another two break points and a chance to get back in the match. But he couldn’t use both. The match ended after 4:42 hours with a backhand error by the 21-year-old Canadian.
Dealing with your own chances made the difference in the match in the end. Auger-Aliassime missed six break chances in the fifth set, Medvedev used his only one for a decisive service breakthrough. In the field interview afterwards, he frankly admitted that he was lucky. “Felix played great and was clearly better.” When he said afterwards that he had thought about what Novak Djokovic would do in this situation, he received boos from the audience.
Even ten days after the Serb left Australia involuntarily, he is still present at the Melbourne Park facility. Djokovic has dominated the Australian Open for the past decade. And despite his visa suspension, he’s still a bit of a winner this year. The lax Covid 19 test regime had temporarily brought the tournament into disrepute and strengthened the impression that Djokovic’s exclusion was less about national security than about profane election campaigns.
However, his exclusion from the tournament is not without consequence. Because Djokovic will lose the 2000 points from his tournament victory last year in the coming weeks, his lead in the ranking is dwindling. Adjusted for last year’s points (Djokovic 2000, Medvedev 1200), his lead over the Russians before the tournament started was 1280 points.
Confusion about the ranking
Mathematically, Medvedev could replace Djokovic as number 1 with a win on Sunday in Melbourne. Even before the tournament started, however, the ITF wrote in its preview of the tournament that Djokovic would remain number 1 regardless of the outcome of the tournament.
The confusion may be due to the Australian Open being held at different times. Because of the pandemic, the 2021 tournament did not take place until February. At the time of going to press, ATP had not responded to a request to clarify the confusion. But the fact is: sooner or later there will be a change in the hierarchy in men’s tennis.