Tennis observers have come to the conclusion that there is Russian meddling in the U.S. Open. Young Daniil Sergeyevich Medvedev of Moscow on Friday completed an unlikely run to his first major tournament final with a convincing 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-3 victory over unseeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.
Medvedev, 23, entered the semifinal — his first push past the fourth round in a Grand Slam event in only his 12th Slam appearance — as the hottest player on the men’s tour: 49 match victories in 2019, the most by anyone, and seeded an impressive No. 5.
But logic dictated that his advance to a fourth consecutive tournament final was not to be expected. Not in a field that included the incumbent champion, Novak Djokovic, and the other two most prolific major-tournament titlists, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Even the 28-year-old Dimitrov, though currently ranked 78th, might have assumed a certain edge, playing in his 37th Slam and having been ranked as high as No. 3 only two years ago. It was Dimitrov who eliminated Federer in the Open quarterfinals.
In the tournament’s two weeks, furthermore, Medvedev had complained of a painful quadriceps and aching shoulder and was fined $19,000 for snatching a towel from a ball person, for holding a middle finger to his temple in defiance of crowd booing, for verbal and equipment abuse.
Nevertheless, he persisted. “Have to tell you it sounds not bad,” Medvedev said of his Sunday date.
On Friday, both men demonstrated that a baseline requirement in the sport is the baseline requirement — hammering deep shots from one end of the court to the other in long, physical rallies — the longest lasting 39 strokes.
But Medvedev, 6-foot-6 and gangly, appearing to have lots of extra room in his clothes, won out with his footspeed and staying power.
Medvedev saved a Dimitrov set point serving at 5-6 in the first set with a ripped forehand that Dimitrov couldn’t put back in play. And he outlasted Dimitrov in two lengthy rallies at the end of the first-set tiebreaker. He repeatedly fought off some impressive Dimitrov athleticism with a strategy Medvedev once described as “making my opponent suffer.”
In the American-based summer hardcourt season that began in late July, Medvedev’s match record is a rubbing-the-eyes-in-disbelief 20-2. “When I was coming to the USA, I didn’t know it was going to be that good,” he said. “I have to say, ‘I love USA.’”