Serving at 5-2, 40-0 can be a daunting task. But Daniil Medvedev faced no such fear. Much to the crowd’s delight, the rather tall Russian served an ace straight down the middle to seal his first-ever ATP 250 final berth at the Aircel Chennai Open on Saturday evening. He clawed his way back after losing the first set 4-6, winning the second in a one-sided tiebreak 7-2 after saving a match point at 4-5 and finally, after 126 minutes of play, emerged triumphant against Israel’s Dudi Sela at the SDAT Stadium.
The 20-year-old will play for his maiden title on the ATP Tour against second seed Spain’s Roberto Bautista-Agut who defeated Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-3 in the second semifinal. The Spaniard didn’t waste much time. He wrapped up the match in just over an hour with perfect winners after struggling through a three-set quarterfinal match against Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny a day earlier.
Medvedev has had a phenomenal 2016. Thanks to a 35-run win on the ATP Challenger Tour, reaching the quarters or better in eight consecutive events, he broke into the top 100 of the ranking list having started at 329. Currently ranked 99, prior to Saturday, his best-finish in an ATP Tour event was the quarterfinals of the Kremlin Cup defeating world No 28 Viktor Troicki in November.
Medvedev looms at 6’6” and possesses a good serve. A little more attention to it thanks to his height would immensely help in developing it to be a top-notch arsenal. Sela tried to keep the ball low, trying to make it difficult for Medvedev. But, it wasn’t a successful strategy. Slovak Jozef Kovalik, the Marin Cilic slayer, tried it in the previous round but came up short too. Medvedev just kept his cool, stayed patient and forced Sela to make unforced errors. Medvedev laughs it off when questioned about it. “Yes I did have to bend my knees more but I don’t think it was their (Kovalik and Sela) strategy,” he responds.
Sela had gotten rid of third seed Albert Ramos-Violas in the quarters but against Medvedev, just couldn’t capitalise on his chances in front of the Chennai crowd who were vociferous in their support for the youngster once he levelled scores.
Chennai is humid and the weather has left Medvedev ‘exhausted’. “But I will try to continue to fight tomorrow. I honestly don’t know how to describe the feeling of reaching my first final. I’m just very happy,” he smiles.
The off season has been beneficial he feels. “I worked on different aspects of my game and the results are showing I think. I worked on my technique, serves, forehand…” Now it remains to be seen if Medvedev can go all the way against world No 14 Bautista-Agut on Sunday. A winning start to the season will be a tremendous confidence booster for the young Russian.
Singles SF: Daniil Medvedev (Rus) bt Dudi Sela (Isr) 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2; Roberto Bautista-Agut (Espx2) bt Benoit Paire (Frax5) 6-3 6-3