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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Tuesday, February 27, 2024


In his first match since the Australian Open final, Daniil Medvedev broke twice in a row stopping Alexander Shevchenko 6-3, 7-5 in Dubai.

Photo credit: Kelly DeFina/Getty

Widely respected as a counter-strike genius, Daniil Medvedev isn’t exactly a diligent defender.

The owner of 20 career titles has yet to defend a title in his career.

Medvedev: Why I Hired Simon

Playing his first match since the Australian Open final, Medvedev shook off the rust and subdued second-set stress stopping Alexander Shevchenko 6-3, 7-5 in Dubai today.

Bidding to defend a title for the first time, Medvedev was staring down a 4-5 second-set deficit.

The top seed dug in and broke twice in a row running off the final three games to charge into the second round.

Afterward, Medvedev said he is determined to defend a championship at some point.

“I want to think that it doesn’t add any pressure,” Medvedev said. “To be honest, I’m really not already 20 let’s say, and I want to defend the title somewhere, at least once in my career.

“And I’m pretty sure I’m gonna do it, but the time is passing you know. And so I try here this week—it’s not gonna be easy—it’s a lot of great players, but I hope I can do it.”

It’s Medvedev’s first match—and first win—with coach Gilles Simon in his corner. Former world No. 6 Simon was in the coaching box tonight as Medvedev’s main coach, Gilles Cervara, is planning to cut back on ihs travel schedule a bit this season.

Given his layoff, Medvedev understandably showed signs of rust. He hit two aces against five double faults and sometimes looked content to play contra tennis, as Roger Federer once called it, and allow Shevchenko to hit himself into trouble.

Still, Medvedev turned it up when he needed to and consistently attacked the Kazakh’s second serve. Medvedev won 16 of 25 points played on Shevchenko’s serve.

The fourth-ranked Medvedev took the court for the first time since he suffered his third Australian Open final defeat last month. The Miami Open champion was one set from becoming the first man in Open Era history to win four five-setters en route to capturing a Grand Slam singles title until Jannik Sinner rallied for a 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory in the Melbourne final.

Since Melbourne, Medvedev bypassed the chance to defend his titles in Rotterdam and Dohan to rest and recover for Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami.

A terrific touch duel opened the match as Shevchenko hit a fine dropper, Medvedev hit an even better drop shot reply that kissed the tape and dribbled over only to see a sliding Shevchenko shovel the best dropper of all to win the point with a clenched fist in a festive opening game.

Wearing blue kinesiology tape snaking the back of his right arm, Shevchenko was letting his ball toss drop too low in the fifth game. Shevchenko slapped successive double faults into the tape, gift-wrapping the break and a 3-2 lead to the Australian Open finalist.

The former world No. 1 navigated a tough deuce hold to back up the break. Medvedev drained a series of Shevchenko errors scoring his second straight break for 5-2.

Casting nervous glances at his right elbow, Shevchenko shook it off hammering a forehand down the line for double break point. Running right, Shevchenko spun a forehand pass breaking back for 3-5.

Shaking that mis-step off, Medvedev earned triple set point in the ensuing game. When Shevchenko knocked a backhand into net—several of his errors came when he tried changing direction down the line—Medvedev had the first set of his first match since the AO final.

As the second set progressed errors escalated off Medvedev’s racquet.

The defending champion hit his fourth double fault to face double break point in the fifth game. Credit Shevchenko for stepping in and scalding a forehand off the sideline to break with a bang for 3-2.

The world No. 47 reeled off nine of 11 points extending his lead to 4-2.

Serving for the set at 5-4. Shevchenko opened with a couple of errors and was blindsided as a sprinting Medvedev rocketed a forehand winner down the line for triple break point. On his second break point, Medvedev attacked eliciting an errant pass for 5-all.

Shevchenko showed some positive signs in this match, but his forehand let him down at crunch time. Shevchenko sailed a forehand on match point as Medvedev reeled off the final three games in a row to win his first match since the AO final.

The top seed will face either Sumit Nagal or Lorenzo Sonego next.


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