Tennis

Novak Djokovic v Daniil Medvedev live: Australian Open men’s final

It’s the shot that has the world talking – and that might just be the key to the man who owns it dethroning Novak Djokovic.

Daniil Medvedev’s stupendous backhand winner to seal Stefanos Tsitsipas’ Australian Open fate on Friday night predictably set tongues wagging.

Tsitsipas did everything right to stretch Medvedev, only for Russia’s natural born (on-court) killer to somehow defy the laws of physics, in curling the ball into the top left corner despite messy footwork he laughed about later.

The world No.4’s look-at-me celebration was justified, given the quality of shot and the fact it delivered him the chance to serve his way into Sunday night’s final against Djokovic.

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev reacts to his audacious backhand winner late in his Australian Open semi-final triumph over Stefanos Tsitsipas. Picture: David Gray/AFPSource:HeraldSun

“That was an important moment, so I wanted them to recognise me, because the shot was unbelievable,” Medvedev said, with the widest of grins.

“I think one of my best shots in my career.”

The problem for Medvedev’s rivals, and specifically Djokovic this weekend, is that sizzling backhand was no flash in the pan. It’s typically equal-parts brick wall and weapon of mass destruction.

The 25-year-old has hit more than double as many winners as his opponents off that wing this fortnight, but also far fewer unforced errors.

Australian strategy guru Craig O’Shannessy raves about the Medvedev backhand, which he described in an ATP Tour analytical piece as “ungainly” but “unstoppable”.

“To gain a full appreciation of just how good Medvedev’s backhand is, don’t actually watch it,” O’Shannessy wrote.

“Focus on the ball that explodes off his strings and the lethal mix of depth, direction and power it produces. Look to see how uncomfortable his opponent is trying to get it back into play.

Daniil Medvedev’s backhand is a lethal weapon. Picture: Patrick Hamilton/AFPSource:HeraldSun

“Then, you will understand.”

Medvedev is currently on one of his tears, boasting a 20-match winning streak that’s cut down every other top-10 star – outside of the injured Roger Federer – since November.

He won 29 of 32 matches during one white-hot stretch in 2019, which included making his first grand slam final at the US Open, as he soared from world No.10 to No.4.

Victory on Sunday would be Medvedev’s fourth title on the trot and maiden grand slam championship.

It would also see Medvedev leapfrog Rafael Nadal into second spot in the ATP rankings, becoming the first player other than Djokovic, Nadal, Federer or Andy Murray to be in that slot in 16 years.

“It’s tough to keep this momentum going, from London to Melbourne – so far away – and you had the pre-season between it,” Medvedev said.

“I’m just happy that I managed to keep my game on top. Of course, for the confidence, when you beat everybody, it’s just great, because I think people start, maybe, to be a little bit scared about you.”

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev has had cause for many celebrations in recent months. Picture: Brandon Malone/AFPSource:HeraldSun

Medvedev remains iffy at the net, but there is arguably no other hole in his arsenal, including his mental and physical game.

His backhand is his most trusted stroke, but his trademark wind up, then almost whip-cracking motion on his forehand can produce just as deadly a finish.

Tsitsipas also paid Medvedev’s serve high praise, describing it as “close to John Isner’s” after watching his opponent smack 17 aces past him and win 88 per cent of first-serve points.

“Let me tell you that he’s a player who has unlocked pretty much everything in the game,” Tsitsipas said.

Originally published asOpen challenger’s weapon of mass destruction

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