Daniil digs deep to outlast Hurkacz

IT was a battle of epic proportions, but third seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev earned his place in the Australian Open semi-final with a five-set victory over Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz in three hours and 59 minutes. In a see-sawing match that was entertaining from the get-go, both players showed off their contrasting traits to get the upper hand, before Medvedev finally secured the win, 7-6 2-6 6-3 5-7 6-4.

It was by far the third seed’s biggest test of the tournament so far with the ninth seeded Pole taking it up to him for five sets. Hurkacz has the power advantage, but Medvedev’s unorthodox style makes him a tricky player to knock off, with his elite endurance and varied gamestyle good at working over opponents.

To Hurkacz’s credit, he never gave in, and even when it looked to be on Medvedev’s terms at two sets to one and the Russian up a break at 4-2, Hurkacz kept his composure. Instead, the Pole won five of the next six games to claim the fourth set 7-5, and the momentum in the match.

Unfortunately for the underdog, all it took was a poor seventh game in the fourth set, where Hurkacz hit made errors and handed Medvedev the break. From there, the Russian took it with both hands – despite Hurkacz having a break point the next game to move 5-3 up. Hurkacz held to love in the ninth game, but Medvedev proved too strong, serving out the set, and the match with some brilliant forehand winners.

Despite Medvedev more than capable of fighting through five sets, the Russian conceded post-match that he was sore physically and mentally after the battle.

“I am so destroyed right now,” Medvedev said post-match. “Not that I ran out of gas, but I was feeling very tough physically at the end of the second set already.” The two-time AO finalist struck 43 winners against his Polish rival to secure victory in just under four hours.

“[In the] fourth set, I just [had] no more concentration, I just [had] to try my best to do whatever I can, and let’s see, if I lose, I lose, I go home and it’s okay,” he said.

The 2021 US Open champion advanced to the semi-finals for the eighth time in a Grand Slam, and third time at Melbourne Park. He was inconsistent on serve with 10 double faults to accompany 11 aces, but hit 43 winners to 42 unforced errors, compared to Hurkacz’s 61 and 55 respectively.

Medvedev will now take on German Alexander Zverev who upset second seed, Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz. Zverev won 6-1 6-3 6-7 6-4 in three hours and five minutes, and almost closed it out in straight sets, leading 5-2 in the third at one stage.

It was a horror night for Alcaraz early as he only hit two winners to 11 unforced errors and managed just 11 points. Zverev on the other hand was at his best, breaking twice and winning all bar two points off his serve. That domination continued into the second set, with the German only dropping four points off his serve and producing a ridiculous 90 per cent first serve efficiency.

Alcaraz gave himself a glimmer of hope in the third set to fight back from the break down to force a tiebreaker that he eventually won 7-2, but it was to be the German’s night. Zverev closed out the fifth set 6-4 after breaking his opponent in the penultimate game following three backhand unforced errors off Alcaraz’s racquet.

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