February 15, 2021
By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Daniil Medvedev was forced to dig deep to fight off a charging Filip Krajinovic on Saturday but came through 6-3 6-3 4-6 3-6 6-0 to extend his winning streak to 17 matches and join the Russian charge into the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Medvedev, who lost the only previous encounter between the two players, at Indian Wells in 2019, breezed through the first two sets in Melbourne. But he looked seriously rattled when Krajinovic won the third and went up a break in the fourth.
It was the fourth seed’s first dropped set of the tournament, and he effectively drove his coach Gilles Cervara from the otherwise empty stands at Rod Laver Arena with a couple of furious verbal volleys before taking an injury timeout.
Krajinovic, who spent his pre-tournament quarantine practising with world number one Novak Djokovic, was unrelenting after finding some success preying on Medvedev’s forehand and took the contest into a fifth set.
Medvedev had never won a five-set match in six previous attempts, but after breaking the Serbian for 2-0 in the decider with a crunching forehand winner, the 25-year-old faced little resistance for the rest of the match.
“Definitely a good feeling to finally win in five sets,” said Medvedev. “He played some great tennis, especially like the fourth set was perfect tennis from him.”
Medvedev, who next faces American Mackenzie McDonald, anticipated no problems with his coach after their contretemps.
“He said just before leaving that he’s sure I’m gonna win the match but he’s gonna leave me alone to be more calm,” he said. “I think it was a good thing to do.”
Medvedev joins compatriot Aslan Karatsev in the fourth round, after the Russian qualifier manufactured a straight sets upset of Diego Schwartzman on Friday.
Seventh seed Andrey Rublev later made it a trio of Russians in the last 16 with a 7-5 6-2 6-3 victory over 39-year-old Spaniard Feliciano Lopez on Margaret Court Arena.
“I feel physically great, I haven’t had long matches so far and I feel fresh,” said Rublev, who will next face Casper Ruud with Medvedev looming in the quarter-finals.
Karen Khachanov’s tight 7-6(1) 7-6(5) 7-6(5) loss to Italian ninth seed Matteo Berrettini was the only setback of the day for Russia’s burgeoning male tennis cohort.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Hugh Lawson)