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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, September 10, 2021

 
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A clinical Daniil Medvedev dissected Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-5, 6-2, rolling into his third career Grand Slam final at the US Open.

Photo credit: Darren Carroll/USTA/US Open

Pursuing a major championship can be a heart-racing experience.

Coronary concerns—and the stress of  facing three set points—did not deter Daniil Medvedev from rolling into his third Grand Slam final with a commanding  6-4, 7-5, 6-2 US Open semifinal conquest of Felix Auger-Aliassime.

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The second-ranked Medvedev fought off three set points when the Canadian served for the second set at 5-3, including catching a break when Auger-Aliassime nudged a forehand volley into net. Medvedev took that lapse and ran with it rolling through 11 of the final 13 games. 

A clinical Medvedev struck 37 winners—20 more than his opponent—and converted all five break points. A jittery Auger-Aliassime struggled at times to tame his forehand, committed 10 double faults and 39 unforced errors as he couldn't keep the ball between the lines on some critical points.

"Strange match a little bit," Medvedev told ESPN's Brad Gilbert afterward. "In the second set I think everyone felt it was gonna be one set all, you never know where the match is gonna go.

"[I] managed to save the set points. He missed one volley, I made one good point and the match turned around completely. I am just really happy. I don’t think I played my best today, but I’m really happy to be in the final on Sunday."




The 2019 US Open finalist has dropped just one set in six tournament wins in New York as Medvedev's third major final equals Hall of Famer Yevgeny Kafelnikov for second all time among Russian men behind only four-time major finalist Marat Safin, who served as Medvedev's ATP Cup captain.

Medvedev has registered a 12-1 record in major hard-court matches this season backing up his maiden Australian Open final with his second trip to the Flushing Meadows final in the last three years. The 25-year-old Russian's lone hard-court major loss this season came to Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 in the Australian Open final.

On Sunday, Medvedev will face either the top-seeded Djokovic or fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev in the US Open final.

Before this Flushing Meadows fortnight began, Medvedev made a major mission statement: stop Djokovic from halting history and completing the calendar Grand Slam.

"We're here to not let him win the US Open. If I talk just for myself, I want to win the US Open," said Medvedev, who is 3-6 lifetime vs. Djokovic and 4-5 against Zverev. "I don't care if it's in the final against a qualifier or against Novak. I just want to win this tournament.

"But we all know that Novak, he's a very strong player, one of the best in the history. That's why any tournament he's in, either a slam or futures or an ATP, he's a big contender, a big favorite."



Midway through the opening set, Medvedev was piercing the Canadian’s baseline defense. A crackling forehand from the second seed drew a stretched error. Medvedev rolled through eight straight points breaking in the seventh game and consolidating with a love hold for 5-3.

The 12th-seeded Canadian dotted the T with a his fourth ace sealing the ninth game and forcing the Russian to serve it out. From love-30 down, Medvedev hammered four serves in a row ripping his sixth ace wide to snatch the 38-minute opener. Medvedev won 20 of 25 points played on his serve in the set.

Serving for the second set at 5-3, Auger-Aliassime couldn’t convert three set points, including netting a relatively routine forehand volley on his third set point.

"It's tough. I mean, when you're serving, you don't see as much openings," Auger-Aliassime said. "Mostly you just feel like, yeah, he's going to put one more ball back every time, he's going to make you work.

"But I think I played the way, I mean, I should have played in that second set, when I was up a break, I felt like up 5-2, I was playing as good as I could play, coming in when I needed to, mixing up with serve and volleys. It's just unfortunate I couldn't close out the second set."

Dodging that dilemma, Medvedev drained a backhand error breaking back for 4-5.

"He had three set points, I was thinking don’t make an ace on the line please and I’m gonna make you play," Medvedev said. "At 5-4 I knew it was a very important point of the match where I have to just do everything at my best even more than before because that’s the moment I could break him mentally and that’s what happened."




On the ensuing changeover, the Canadian gulped deep breaths of air trying to refocus after opportunity lost. Meanwhile, Medvedev continued to make the semifinal debutant work. Medvedev rolled through five straight games surging through 12 of the last 14 points to seize a two-set lead.

Perhaps still ruing lost opportunity, Auger-Aliassime struggled to get more shape on his shots to combat Medvedev’s flat drives. Auger-Aliassime pasted a forehand into net as Medvedev broke for the third time in the Canadian’s last four service games for a 2-1 third-set lead.




Late in the third set, a dazed Auger-Aliassime looked like he had seen enough, but Medvedev wasn't done giving. Reaching right for a full stretch forehand, Medvedev snapped a magical return he nearly wrapped around the net post drawing gasps from some members of the crowd.

A resolute Medvedev streaked through six of the last seven games capping a two hour, four-minute victory to raise his 2021 record to 46-10, including 34-5 on hard courts.

 

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