February 19, 2021
Daniil Medvedev defeated the jaded Stefanos Tsitsipas to set up a fascinating Australian Open final against Novak Djokovic.
And the psychological battle between Medvedev and Djokovic has already begun.
It was a shame for Tsitsipas and his legion of fans that he didn’t have enough left in the tank to cope with the Russian.
Apart from a third-set wobble, Daniil looked sensational during his 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 victory over the superstar Greek.
‘Someone behind me was shouting “miss it!” and he got into my head a little,’ admitted Medvedev as he explained the Tsitsipas comeback.
That was neutralised by the most breath-taking backhand down the line under extreme pressure as Daniil broke once more.
Medvedev was almost immaculate. He won 88% of points behind his huge first serve. He nearly always came out on top in the long rallies.
The crowd were there to see Stefanos turn on the style. They left admiring the excellence and resilience of his incredible opponent.
Medvedev has now won twenty matches in succession. Djokovic has won eight Australian Open finals in succession.
An irresistible force is about to face an immovable object.
The fitter and mentally stronger player will prevail in what could well turn into a scintillating five-setter.
Medvedev wasn’t slow to try to dominate the psychological high-ground.
‘I don’t have a lot of pressure,’ he pointed out. ‘He hasn’t lost in eight times in the final. It’s him who has the pressure as he tries to win enough Grand Slams to get to Roger and Rafa. For sure he has more experience, but more to lose too.’
Djokovic doesn’t have too much time for the bravado of the younger players. He pointed out: ‘There’s been a lot of talk of the next generation taking over but it hasn’t happened yet. Let’s be honest, they still have a lot of work to do. I’m not ready to just hand it over yet.’
This Australian Open final is going to be totally absorbing for tennis connoisseurs. Djokovic has shown physical vulnerability this tournament. Neither man is a machine.
It was strangely heart-warming to hear Medvedev admit to fear during his semi-final against Tsitsipas.
He explained: ‘It definitely wasn’t easy, Rafa Nadal was two sets up against Tsitsipas too. I got a little scared and tight. It was the semi-final of a Slam and I’m not like Roger or Rafa, with about fifty of them under my belt.
‘I just tried to hit aces or winners. For sure he was tired after the match with Rafa. As soon I was moving him around the court in the first set I saw it wasn’t easy for him, so that became my strategy.’
Tsitsipas has had a wonderful tournament and he will be one of the star attractions at Wimbledon 2021.
But the more we listen to Medvedev, the more we love him too. There is something naturally flamboyant about his personality. He is alarmingly honest and likeable.
We hope the Wimbledon 2021 crowds take to Medvedev too and give him the support he deserves.
They will certainly show a lot of love to Britain’s biggest doubles stars, Joe Salisbury and Jamie Murray.
These Brits were on opposite sides in the men’s semi-finals in Melbourne.
Reigning champion Salisbury and partner Rajeev Ram defeated Murray and Bruno Soares 6-4, 7-6 (7-2). They will play Ivan Podig and Filip Polasek in Sunday’s final.
But most of the attention will be focused on Medvedev and Djokovic. What a mesmerising chess game it promises to be.
We can’t wait! And Wimbledon 2021 is just around the corner!