“Crazy match,” Daniil Medvedev said. “Happy to win even if many things I didn’t like. Most important thing is to win for the country and be in the final.”
Grand Slam tournament winners including Naomi Osaka, Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams withdrew from their tuneup events, their focus on the Australian Open, well before Alexander Zverev tweaked his back in the second set of his must-win ATP Cup match against Daniil Medvedev.
He left the court for treatment on Saturday and returned, taking the match to three sets before Medvedev finally converted to secure Russia’s win over Germany and a spot in the final.
No. 4-ranked Medvedev lifted when Zverev started to struggle but he got tight in the end, twice double-faulting on match point before finally serving out for 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. win. Andrey Rublev had earlier beaten Jan-Lennard Struff 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
“Crazy match,” Medvedev said. “Happy to win even if many things I didn’t like. Most important thing is to win for the country and be in the final.” Russia will meet Italy in the final after Fabio Fognini beat Pablo Carreno 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 and Matteo Berrettini had a 6-3, 7-5 win over Roberto Bautista to account for 2020 runner-up Spain.
No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal didn’t play for Spain during the week because of lower back soreness but did practice and is expected to be OK for the Australian Open.
Zverev helped Germany to a 2-1 win over defending champion Serbia in the quarterfinals, rebounding from a narrow loss to top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the singles with a victory in the deciding doubles.
In the semis, he was on top early but after getting a medical timeout for treatment in the second set, he wasn’t moving or serving as quickly.
Medvedev broke his serve in the penultimate game, and Zverev shattered a racket in frustration.
“It helped me he started moving slower, serving slower in the second set,” Medvedev said.
“I felt like in the beginning of the third, I could stay in front and get the match done easy. But in the heat of the match, he started feeling better. I had to stay in it as much as I could.”
Muguruza into final
A day after beating 2020 champion Sofia Kenin in a rematch of last year’s Australian Open final, Garbine Muguruza beat eighth-seeded Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-0 to set up a final against top-ranked Ash Barty at the Yarra River Classic.
“Very happy for sure — it’s another final,” Muguruza said. “I payed well today. My serve was working in the right moments.” She knows she’ll have to step it up against Australian star Barty will have the crowd — however small it may be during the COVID-19 pandemic — on her side.
“Very exciting. Always good to play the top players,” Muguruza said. “We’ve had some tough matches. I’m expecting another battle.” Barty had the day off after Serena Williams withdrew Friday night from their match, citing a sore shoulder.
Williams attended a news conference instead, and said she was feeling good for her shot at a record 24th Grand Slam title.
“I’ve gotten a lot of treatment already on my shoulder but I’m super confident it’s going to be great,” Williams said.
“So I’m feeling very confident, I think is a better word, and getting ready for hopefully the next two weeks.
“It’s definitely something that I’m going to have to deal with for the (two weeks) and kind of knowing that going into the tournament definitely helped.”
Fifth-seeded Maria Sakkari beat three-time major winner Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-2 in a rescheduled opener on Margaret Court Arena to reach the Grampians Trophy semifinal against No. 6 Anett Kontaveit, who got a walkover in the quarterfinals when Azarenka withdrew with a lower back problem.
No. 3-ranked Osaka pulled out of her Gippsland Trophy semifinal against Elise Mertens after a shoulder niggle caused her problems this week.
Osaka won the U.S. Open in 2018 and last year and won the Australian title in between, in 2019. She said she’s had a “slight shoulder thing since like 2018” and needed to rest ahead of the Grand Slam. Her withdrawal gives Mertens a walkover into the final.
“It kind of flared up again because I played, like, a lot of matches back-to-back. But, yeah, for me, my main focus is, like, hoping I can rest enough before the Open,” Osaka said.
Organizers put on six tournaments this week to give all players who flew into Australia and had to quarantine for 14 days some high-level matches to prepare.
A 24-hour suspension during the week — when 507 people, including 160 players, had to go back into isolation and get tested because a hotel quarantine worker was infected with the coronavirus — meant the semifinals and finals were crammed into the last weekend.
“I would say it is a factor because, for me, I don’t normally play the tournament right before a Slam,” Osaka said.
“But I felt like it was really necessary to get matches in. I think everyone felt that way.
“I’m kind of sad that I wasn’t able to play today. But I thinkin the end it’s the right decision.”