NEW YORK (Reuters) - Love him or hate him, Daniil Medvedev will play for a first Grand Slam title after grinding out a 7-6(5) 6-4 6-3 win over Grigor Dimitrov at the U.S. Open on Friday.
Medvedev has a complicated relationship with the Flushing Meadows crowds, who have cast him as a U.S. Open bad boy due to his on-court antics, but the fifth seeded Russian has been as good as gold where it matters — on the scoreboard.
“I will not say that I’m a kind person or a good person, I can only say I’m a really calm person in life,” said Medvedev, who has incurred $19,000 in fines for an assortment of offences including smashing racquets and giving the crowd the middle finger.
“I actually have no idea why the demons go out when I play tennis.
“I’m not proud of what I did. I’m working to never do it again.”
Medvedev may not be winning many friends but he is winning matches. Lots of them.
His semi-final victory on Friday sends the 23-year-old through to his fourth straight final and stretches his win streak to 12 matches.
The first Russian man to reach a Grand Slam final since Marat Safin at the 2005 Australian Open, Medvedev will play Rafa Nadal for the title after the three-time champion ended Italian Matteo Berrettini’s surprise run.
After spending much of the U.S. Open playing the role of villain, the lanky Medvedev has tried to cast himself as a more fan-friendly figure, distancing himself from the gestures that turned the New York crowds against him.
He tried to put the bad blood behind him with an apology to the crowd after beating former champion Stan Wawrinka in the quarters, but fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium let him know he still had some fences to mend on Friday, ‘welcoming’ him with a round of jeers as he walked onto the court.
Medvedev and Dimitrov arrived at Flushing Meadows in wildly contrasting form.
The 78th ranked Bulgarian’s play was trending downwards, winning just one of his last eight matches, while Medvedev was riding the momentum from reaching three straight finals, including a win in his last U.S. Open tune-up in Cincinnati.
With both men fighting for a spot in their first Grand Slam final, every point was contested as if a trophy were riding on it, particularly in a tense opening set that stretched to an hour before Medvedev snatched it in a tie-break.
The second set produced more long, grinding rallies as the Russian and Bulgarian traded a pair of breaks before Medvedev landed the decisive blow to break Dimitrov and go 2-1 up.
Now in command, Medvedev continued to relentlessly wear down the tiring Dimitrov in a third set that saw him earn a break at 3-1 to take a lead he would not surrender.
“I think the confidence means a lot,” said Medvedev. “I do think he was better player in first set. I was kind of lucky to win it.
“I think after I was playing better than him.
“Talking about first set, these crucial points, this moment in my game, there is something strong that makes me win these crazy sets and crazy matches, which maybe two months ago I would have lost.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford