Medvedev survives meltdown to advance

He had a multilingual meltdown, an angry exchange with his coach, who quit the arena as a result, and he needed a medical time-out at a critical point of the game.

Oh, and he almost blew what looked to be a routine victory, throwing away a two-set lead prior to his mid-match near collapse.

But in the end class, persistence and mental strength proved the decisive factor for Russian Daniil Medvedev, who advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open by running away with the fifth and final set to eliminate 28th seed Filip Krajinovic, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-0, in the process winning his 17th match in a row.

The fourth seed looked to be coasting and the game going in line with the world rankings as he barely broke sweat to win the first two sets 6-3, 6-3. But the wheels began to fall off for the lanky Muscovite when he lost serve and allowed Krajinovic a sniff, the Serbian taking the third set 6-4.

That should have been merely a hiccup for a man many believe is a real chance of winning his first grand slam title in Australia. However, things went from bad to worse in the fourth set as Krajinovic took full advantage of the unexpected window of opportunity that Medvedev had presented to him, breaking the higher-rated man’s serve and charging to a 6-3 victory.

It was during this period that relations between Medvedev and his coach, Gilles Cervara, nosedived, the latter getting out of his seat, walking up the aisle and out of the arena after an angry exchange.

The Russian had been arguing with him in French – the language they use to communicate since a youthful Medvedev moved to France to further his game more than six years ago and Cervara, who ran a tennis centre, became his coach.

But it is not just French and Russian that Medvedev can speak, as he exclaimed in English as his opponent produced shots that he found “unbelievable” – before calling for a medical time-out just as Krajinovic was preparing to wrap up the fourth set.

Gamesmanship or a tactical disruption? Whatever it was, it didn’t stop the Serb from taking the set, but it might have worked wonders for Medvedev’s mentality as he came out with all guns blazing in the fifth set and gave his opponent no chance to continue his heroics.

It was like the opening stanza again as the relentless Russian, all commitment, concentration and conviction looked like a different player.

He was ruthless and driven, closing down angles, firing off winners, serving aces, returning the best that Krajinovic could throw at him and denying his opponent – who should, by all measures, have been on a roll – any opportunity to impose himself at all.

The final set was a 6-0 scoreline – remarkable for what had happened in the previous two sets, if not the opening two.

This was the first time in his career that the 25-year-old has won a grand slam game in the fifth set, so it will at least give him confidence if he needs to go the distance in the games to come.

His reward for this triumph is a fourth round clash with unheralded American Mackenzie McDonald, who beat Lloyd Harris in straight sets, 7-6, 6-1, 6-4, to get to the next stage.

But he will need to avoid the mid-match mind games and fade out he endured during this game – and also get more of his first serves in. Although he sent down 15 aces to just two, he managed to only get 54 per cent of his first serves in play.

While Medvedev had to run the gamut of his emotions – and display the Jekyll and Hyde qualities of his game – Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas enjoyed a far more routine afternoon, the number five seed seeing off unseeded Swedish player Mikael Ymer in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.

Tsitsipas had few worries apart from the first set and eased through the final two sets against a man who is his training partner.

It must have come as a relief after the bruising, marathon encounter he had in the previous round to defeat Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis in five sets in a match, which lasted more than four-and-a-half hours.

There was another relatively straightforward triumph for the Russian Andrey Rublev, the seventh seed. He will now face Casper Ruud in the fourth round after beating Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in straight sets, 7-5 6-2 6-3.

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