Stunning finish: Djokovic prevails when Medvedev retires

08.10.2022    Views: 801
Source: KTF press-service
Greg Garber

In a stunning conclusion to their highly anticipated semi-final match at the Astana Open, Daniil Medvedev retired Saturday after Novak Djokovic won a second-set tie-breaker, 4-6, 7-6 (6).

He told Djokovic he had pulled an adductor muscle in his thigh and could not continue.

«I’m shocked, really,» Djokovic said in his in-court interview. «He looked completely fine, but maybe the last seven eight, points I saw him move slower.
«He wouldn’t retire the match if he felt he couldn’t continue.»

Thus, Djokovic advanced to the 128th career ATP Tour-level final – and his fifth of the year. The World No. 7 won his eighth consecutive match, going back to last week’s title in Tel Aviv. That came after a nearly three-month sabbatical from conventional ATP Tour tournaments.

The No. 4-seeded Djokovic will meet No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas, who was a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 winner over Andrey Rublev in the first semi-final. Djokovic has a 7-2 edge in the career head-to-head.

«It’s the second time in my life I retired like this with a pulled muscle,» Medvedev explained later. «So here, on the second point of the tie-break, I felt a little bit strange pop in my adductor. I first thought maybe it’s a cramp and after the point I was like, `No, probably not a cramp.’

«And during the tie-break, I felt I can play like five, 10 more points but that’s it.  If I play one more set, you can do it, but you can probably miss half a year instead of one month.»

Incredibly, this was their first meeting of 2022 – and only the second event where they were in the same draw, after Roland Garros. It was also Djokovic’s first match versus a Top 10 player on a hard court since the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals, where he fell to Alexander Zverev in the semifinals. Medvedev, meanwhile, was seeking his first indoor hard-court final since that same event in London.

This battle between Top 10 players in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings was a master class in geometry, as the two players artfully carved a dizzying array of intricate, intuitive shots.

There were, improbably, three consecutive breaks of serve in the first set, two of them belonging to Medvedev, who converted his only two break opportunities. Serving at 5-4 he raced out to a 40-love lead and took the set on his second opportunity.

There were no breaks of serve in the second set and so it came down to a tie-breaker. Medvedev won the first point, then Djokovic employed the drop shot on four consecutive points – and won them all. Ultimately, he won the tie-breaker on yet another drop shot when Medvedev’s forehand lob sailed long.

That was when Medvedev crossed over to Djokovic’s side of the net to tell him he was retiring. They exchanged a handshake, but Djokovic had a surprised look on his face.

«I was fighting and tried to find a way,» Djokovic said. «I’m sad in a way for the tournament and the people who were enjoying the battle.»
Said Medvedev, «So I actually have no idea what is fair. If I won, I would not play the final. I was like, OK, I just try to hit some shots. If I manage to win, well I cannot do anything I will retire. If I lose, congrats to Novak, he’s still in great shape.
«Good luck to him in the final.»


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