By Rory Carroll
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Russia’s Daniil Medvedev put the bad blood between him and the U.S. Open crowd behind him on Tuesday, apologising to fans and thanking them after having encouraged them to boo him earlier in the tournament following his erratic on-court behaviour.
Medvedev walked out to a smattering of jeers in his quarter-final against Stan Wawrinka at Arthur Ashe Stadium court on Tuesday but was ultimately cheered after he dug deep to see off the Swiss in an entertaining four-set battle.
Asked during an on-court interview to describe his relationship with the New York crowd, he said he had two words.
“The first is electric,” he said.
“And controversy, because what I’ve done is not good,” he added, referring to how he angrily snatched a towel from a ball person and showed the crowd his middle finger during Friday’s win over Feliciano Lopez, leading to fines.
“So many people support me, but still so many people don’t like me. I can just say, I try to be myself,” he said with a smile. “I have to say sorry guys and thank you.”
The 23-year-old had never sought to be the pantomime villain at this year’s tournament but when fans turned on him during his third-round clash with Lopez on Louis Armstrong Court, he embraced the negativity.
The match ended with Medvedev, arms raised amid a chorus of boos, sarcastically thanking the crowd.
“The only thing I can say, the energy you’re giving me right now, guys, I think it will be enough for my next five matches,” he said at the time.
“The more you do this, the more I will win, for you guys,” said the fifth seed, who picked up fines after each of his first three matches at Flushing Meadows this year totalling $19,000.
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.
But he was far more reserved on Tuesday and the crowd applauded his post-match apology and appreciated him fighting through a left leg injury that required a medical time out.
Medvedev said the pain was so bad he thought he might have to retire in the first set but he battled on to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final with a 7-6(6) 6-3 3-6 6-1 victory.
His 23rd-seeded opponent Wawrinka had got a walkover against holder Novak Djokovic in the fourth round after the world number one quit in the third set with a shoulder injury.
Medvedev, who will next face either Roger Federer or Grigor Dimitrov, has been on a hot streak coming into the U.S. Open, having reached three successive finals.
That run, which included a win over Djokovic en route to the Cincinnati Masters title, raised expectations he could be the one to break the domination of the majors by the Serb, Rafael Nadal and Federer, who have won the last 11 majors between them.
Medvedev’s trolling of the crowd had become the talk of the tournament, with opinions split.
“There’s a lot of young guys that do things on the tennis court that maybe is not the best thing to do,” world number six Alexander Zverev said.
“I don’t want the next generation to be known for that,” the 22-year-old added.
But not everyone thinks Medvedev’s antics are bad for the sport.
“It’s just so funny,” women’s top seed Naomi Osaka said.
“Every day, he has something new to say, like, he wins and then he’s, like, ‘Because of you guys I have the energy’,” she said. “The sarcasm is beautiful,” added the Japanese, who lost her grip on the women’s title with a fourth-round defeat.
Another controversial player, fiery Australian Nick Kyrgios, appeared to find Medvedev’s antics entertaining, briefly making a photo of the Russian with his middle finger extended the background image on his Twitter page.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ken Ferris)