Tennis legend Jim Courier expects Russian star Daniil Medvedev to get through tonight’s Australian Open semi-final against Stefanos Tstitsipas and says that spells trouble for Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic, who is the established king of Melbourne having won eight Australian Open titles in a remarkable career, is first man through to Sunday night’s final. He has had to overcome a lingering abdominal injury to survive some tough matches before outclassing Russian surprise packet Aslan Karatsev in last night’s semi-final.
Australian Open: Novak Djokovic v Aslan Karatsev
Djokovic appeared to be moving well throughout the semi-final and may have got himself back close to full fitness for the last big challenge ahead of him.
Yet if that challenge is Medvedev, Courier says Djokovic will have good reason to worry.
“I think Novak would prefer to play [Stefanos] Tsitsipas,” Courier told Wide World of Sports’ The Morning Serve.
“The reason for that is that Tsitsipas is an offensive player, [Djokovic] knows what’s coming at him, it’s much more of an obvious match for him, he knows he’ll have to play defense and hit passing shots.
“He knows also the points will be less physical and if he plays against Medvedev it’s going to be super physical and keep in mind in the third round of this tournament Novak suffered an injury to his mid-section and that stymied him a little bit.
“He’s managed his way to another final, don’t get me wrong, he knows how to pull a rabbit out of the hat, but he hasn’t been 100 per cent and going up against Medvedev promises to be a very, very physical encounter one would think.
“And I think that Novak would relish something that was a little bit more predictable and possibly a little shorter.”
Courier has tipped Medvedev to win tonight’s match in four sets.
He acknowledges that Greek star Tsitsipas had a “coming of age” in his outstanding come-from-behind quarter-final victory over Rafael Nadal but still sees an edge for the Russian who’s the form player on the ATP Tour.
Medvedev won the last two tournaments of the 2020 season, beating Djokovic, Nadal and world No.3 Dominic Thiem in the same week on the way to lifting the prestigious ATP Finals trophy.
He has since won four ATP Cup matches against high quality opponents, and his five Australian Open matches, including a quarter-final pounding of world No.8 and fellow Russian Andrey Rublev.
Australian Open: Daniil Medvedev v Andrey Rublev
That took his winning streak to an incredible tally of 19, dating back to early November last year.
Medvedev is perhaps the closest thing on tour to a Djokovic clone; a wall from the back of the court who puts the ball extremely deep in the court and quickly transitions from a defensive position in rallies to attack mode.
He is taller and has a bigger serve than the Serbian world No.1 and while he may not be quite as quick around the court his massive wing span makes him just as accomplished at extending rallies by keeping the ball in play.
The Russian world No.4 looms as a huge challenge for Tsitsipas, who has been frustrated in past matches by Medvedev’s metronomic qualities.
The tensest moments in Stefanos Tsitsipas’ career
Despite the fact that their mothers are friends, Medvedev and Tsitsipas are not, with their rivalry at times turning ugly over the past few years.
Medvedev leads the head-to-head against the world No.6 convincingly, winning five of their six matches so far, although Tsitsipas will take confidence from the fact that he won their last encounter, a 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 win in the 2019 ATP Finals.
But whatever belief he’ll take from that match won’t compare to the high Medvedev is currently riding, with Courier marvelling at his last four months of tennis.
“Nineteen wins in a row, with 11 wins against top 10 players of those 19, it’s just insane the form he’s been in,” Courier said.
“He’s a very different player, who is less predictable than pretty much every player on tour, certainly in the top echelon. Big guy, he’s bigger than Stefanos, but he moves beautifully so he can play a lot of defence and extend the points.
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“We saw him play a 45 shot rally against his fellow Russian Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals that basically took Rublev’s legs away from him.
“So that’s the kind of thing that he can offer, he can also go fully offensive if he wants to. He is fabulous. He was Todd Woodbridge’s call as the tournament winner at the start of the tournament and he was my number two behind Novak and here we are.”
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