Not only had 2019 runner-up Daniil Medvedev not dropped a set in this U.S. Open entering his all-Russian quarterfinal against long-time pal Andrey Rublev, but Medvedev hadn’t allowed more than four games in any set.
So when Rublev grabbed a sizable lead in the opening-set tiebreaker Wednesday and three times was a single point from closing it, the moment felt momentous. Turned out it was.
The No. 3-seeded Medvedev fought off that trio of chances for No. 10 Rublev in the tiebreaker by reeling off five points in a row, and was on his way to a 7-6 (6), 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory to return to the semifinals at Flushing Meadows.
The only concern for Medvedev in the latter stages was whether his body would hold up -- he was dealing with cramps and needed his right shoulder massaged by a trainer in the third set -- but he did, indeed, hold on.
“It was tough at the end,” Medvedev said. “I felt like I could get in trouble.”
He took 51 of 57 points when his first serve went in, never faced a break point and wound up with a 51-23 edge in total winners.
In all, through five matches, Medvedev has won 65 of his 68 service games, saving 6 of 9 break points.
It’s been 60 years since a man won this Grand Slam tournament without ceding a set; Neale Fraser did so in 1960 at the event then known as the U.S. Championships.
A year after losing to Rafael Nadal in a five-set U.S. Open final that lasted nearly five hours, Medvedev heads to his second career major semifinal.
He will face either No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem or No. 21 Alex de Minaur, whose quarterfinal was scheduled for later Wednesday.
The other semifinal on Friday will be No. 5 Alexander Zverev vs. No. 20 Pablo Carreño Busta, who won quarterfinals Tuesday.
None of the remaining men has won a Grand Slam title.
Medvedev vs. Rublev pivoted in that first-set tiebreaker, which Rublev led 5-1, then 6-3. But Rublev started losing points and then his cool, slamming his racket down during the change of ends at 6-all. Medvedev’s five-point, set-clinching run culminated with a 128 mph ace.
In the second set, Rublev leaned over and screamed and was given a warning for an audible obscenity, although he told chair umpire James Keothavong that he didn’t curse.
Defending champion Daniil Medvedev moves into quarterfinals at Western & Southern Open
At the changeover, Rublev told Keothavong, “You understand, beecause of your mistake, now they give me a fine?”
Count Serena Williams among the players who have complained about the amount of time chair umpires are giving players between points.
Among the changes at this pandemic-era U.S. Open is that players are responsible for getting their own towels, instead of getting them from, and handing them to, ball people. Williams -- like Novak Djokovic, before he was disqualified, and others -- say that chews up more seconds on the serve clock.
“We need to do a little work on that, because I feel like it’s not enough time. I feel like sometimes I’m really, like, sprinting to get my towel and that’s not really taken into consideration,” Williams said Wednesday after her three-set victory in the quarterfinals.
“And then, sometimes," Williams continued, "I literally am looking at the towel, and I am like, ‘All right, I’m just not going to get it, because I simply don’t have time and I’m drenched,’ especially on a humid day like today.”
Tsvetana Pironkova's first tournament in more than three years ended in a Grand Slam quarterfinal against Serena Williams. Not too shabby. Still, the 32-year-old Bulgarian does not want to set the bar too high for herself moving forward.
“'Expectations'” — yeah, that is a special word that I don’t really like. So I guess there will be more expectations after this tournament, for sure, but whether I put them on myself or not? I think I will not," said the 32-year-old Bulgarian, who left the tour after Wimbledon in 2017 and became a mother. “I will try not to, because I know for sure that’s what helped me here ... (playing) carefree. Going to try to keep it that way, I hope.”
She was planning a comeback in March until the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to sanctioned tennis for more than five months.