By Steve Keating
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Daniil Medvedev may not win any popularity contests at Flushing Meadows but remained on course for a U.S. Open title on Tuesday, taming Stan Wawrinka 7-6(6) 6-3 3-6 6-1 to reach his first grand slam semi-final.
The villain and hero roles for this match could not have been more clearly defined if the Russian bad boy and the even-keeled Swiss were wearing black and white cowboy hats.
Wawrinka may not be as popular as his countryman Roger Federer, but “Stan the Man” has earned considerable respect, along with three Grand Slam titles including the 2016 U.S. Open, for a workmanlike approach to his craft.
Medvedev has not just accepted the villain role but embraced it, harnessing the negative energy and using it to fuel a run to the quarter-finals.
The Russian fifth seed was greeted by a chorus of boos when he stepped out onto Arthur Ashe, but it was far from an intimidating welcome with the massive stadium sparsely filled for the early session.
There is seldom a need to urge any New York sporting crowd to express their opinion yet while Medvedev did not win many friends, neither was he lustily showered with jeers as he had been in earlier matches.
In his third-round win over Feliciano Lopez, the 23-year-old Russian angrily snatched a towel from a ball person, threw his racket and showed the crowd his middle finger, which led to fines totaling $9,000 and a shower of boos.
The match ended with Medvedev, arms raised amid a chorus of jeers, sarcastically thanking the spectators at Louis Armstrong Stadium then telling the New York crowd to bring it on.
The crowd let him have it again after his fourth-round win over Dominik Koepfer on Sunday when he performed a dance after match point.
There were none of those antics or sparring with the crowd on Tuesday as a focused Medvedev put his head down and got on with the job.
“I have to say sorry guys and thank you,” said a sheepish Medvedev, extending an olive branch to the crowd. “I have two words (to describe the U.S. Open).
“First one for sure ‘electric’ because it is electric and second ‘controversy’ because what I have done is not good.
“So many people support me still, so many people like my interview, so many people don’t like me and I can just say I try to be myself guys.”
Despite nine double faults, two foot faults and an injury time out to have work done on his left thigh, Medvedev somehow managed to snatch the opening set with an 8-6 tiebreak.
Having reached three consecutive ATP Tour finals coming into Flushing Meadows, including a win in Cincinnati, Medvedev looked much more like the hottest player in tennis in a dominant second set.
The lanky Russia got his serve under control, avoiding any double faults, and secured the early break before opening a two-set lead against an increasingly frustrated Wawrinka.
Yet the barrel-chested Swiss is nothing if not a battler and broke Medvedev at the first opportunity in the third before holding on to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Medvedev, however, grabbed the early break in the fourth and a second to go 5-1 up before closing out the match with a cheeky lob.
(Editing by Toby Davis)