Rotterdam 2019

Rotterdam 2019: Medvedev breaks new ground in Rotterdam; Monfils next

Daniil Medvedev beats Jo Wilfried Tsonga to make the semi-finals in Rotterdam

Daniil Medvedev
Daniil Medvedev (Photo: Marianne Bevis)

The rise and rise of Daniil Medvedev, the man who turned 23 the day after winning his fourth career title in Sofia last Sunday, has continued through to the semi-finals in Rotterdam this week as he piles on the indoor match-wins.

Since the US Open last year, the young Russian has lost only four matches indoors, compared with 22 wins—including a seven-match streak from qualifying to the title in Tokyo last October.

And he picked up his 23rd indoor win against another man who has enjoyed huge success on indoor courts since his first title way back in 2008 in Bangkok: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The Frenchman, who is a decade older than Medvedev, may be ranked down at 140 this week, but he has enjoyed No5 status and won 17 titles, and his return to fitness following knee surgery less than a year ago has been on full show in the early goings of 2019.

He, like the Russian, arrived in the Dutch city on the back of a title run, in Montpellier. What is more, the 2017 Rotterdam champion counts no fewer than 12 indoor titles on his resume—one of them the Paris Masters—plus seven more finals.

The only indoor match between these two was a year ago in Montpellier, a win to Tsonga, but in their most recent contest, in the outdoor heat of the Brisbane semis last month, Medvedev took the win, 7-6(6), 6-2.

And again, the impressive Russian got off to a flying start on quarter-final Friday with a quick break of serve to steal an early 3-1 lead. He seemed able to chase down everything that Tsonga threw at him, including drop shots, lobs, and wide-angled forehands.

Meanwhile, the Medvedev serve was near impossible to break. Indeed, in the seventh game, he almost got another break himself, but Tsonga saved all four chances for 3-4. However, Medvedev would go on to serve out the set to love, 6-4, having dropped just four points on serve, and 13/14 on the first delivery.

The second set saw Tsonga raise his level, and with the advantage of serving first. He could not hit through Medvedev but he began to change the angle and pace, broke up the Russian rhythm, and finished one particularly demanding 30-stroke rally with an acute off-forehand winner for break point.

However, Medvedev held off the challenge with an ace, 1-1, and although Tsonga kept up the pressure with his own love hold, it did not last for long. Medvedev’s speed and all-court retrieval broke down the Frenchman, drew a couple of errors, and he broke for 3-2.

At the start of the second set, it had looked as though the younger man was feeling the effects of his best-ever start to a season, but the tall, wiry figure of the Russian is deceptive, and his long strides gobble up the ground.

In fact it was the older man who seemed to lose a step in the seventh game, a double fault contributing to a third break point, and a tired forehand into the net gave up the second break, 5-2. Medvedev closed out the match convincingly, 6-2, after an hour and a half, with seven aces, 19 winners, 14 errors and 8/8 at the net—a very tidy set of statistics indeed.

With his 14th win of the year under his belt, Medvedev made no secret of the impact of all those wins on his current level.

“It feels a little bit strange, as I didn’t think I played that well, but I managed to work hard. I don’t think Jo was happy with his level either, as we’ve both played a lot of matches.

“I think the match against Gael [Monfils] will be different [from Sofia], the conditions will be better for him here. I will need to fight.”

He referred to his match less than a week ago against Monfils in the semis in Sofia, which he won 6-2, 6-4. For it will be the 32-year-old Frenchman who Medvedev next faces, his third 30-something Frenchman this week: Medvedev has yet to lose a set.

Monfils beat Damir Dzumhur, 6-1, 6-2, in the first quarter-final of the day, and reflected on his improving form this season after multiple injury problems of his own—he missed six Masters events in 2017 and five in 2018 due to illness and assorted injuries.

“I stuck to my game plan and I am satisfied how I executed. I prepared well in the off-season and I am starting to believe that I can get back to the top of the game.”

Monfils certainly has some form in Rotterdam. This was his fifth quarter-final in the city, and he went on to reach the semis in 2009 and the final in 2016.

Already, though, Medvedev is looking at a new career-high ranking of 15 next week, and another win could take him past Milos Raonic into 14th place. The birthday presents, it seems, just keep coming.

In the evening quarter-finals, the battle between generations and single-handed backhands, 19-year-old No10 seed Denis Shapovalov and former Rotterdam champion, 33-year-old Stan Wawrinka, was expected to be the highlight for Rotterdam fans.

The winner would take on either top seed Kei Nishikori or Marton Fucsovics, and should Nishikori reach the semis, he would also overtake Roger Federer in the rankings, rising to No6. A win for Fucsovics would take the Hungarian to a career-high 33.

Order of play, Saturday 16 February

Centre Court, 1pm
Jeremy Chardy/Henri Kontinen vs Marcel Granollers/Nikola Mektic
Monfils vs Medvedev (RUS)

7.30 pm
Nishikori or Fucsovics vs Wawrinka or Shapovalov
Jean-Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau vs Rajeev Ram/ Joe Salisbury

Court 1, 11.30 am—Wheelchair final
Stephane Houdet vs Joachim Gerard

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