Following Novak Djokovic’s loss to Jiri Vesely in Dubai, Daniil Medvedev is guaranteed to reach the top spot in the ATP Rankings on Monday. He will become the first man outside the “Big 4” to reach World No. 1 since Andy Roddick in 2004.
Following his quarter-final win in Acapulco Thursday, the Russian is two wins away from starting his reign in supreme style behind a 14th tour-level title.
Hours after his impending place atop the men’s game was confirmed, Medvedev masterminded a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC.
“It’s not easy to play a match when you get this news during the day,” said Medvedev, who did not know that Djokovic’s loss guaranteed him the top spot until he started receiving congratulatory messages.
“The first goal for me was to still win today because I’m here to try to win every match I play. But it’s definitely some great news.”
The 26-year-old broke serve six times in the match but twice found himself behind in an eventful second set as Nishioka provided a stern test with his shot tolerance and elite speed.
Four straight games against serve saw Medvedev close out the opening set then fall behind 2-1 in the second. The Japanese pushed his lead to 3-1, but Medvedev rallied to win the final five games of the contest, winning points from all over the court with equal parts power, consistency and delicate touch.
While Nishioka threatened on the return and hit several passing shots as he rallied early in set two, he held serve just once in each frame as Medvedev’s return game dominated. The Russian won an incredible 70 per cent (19/27) of points against the Nishioka first serve in the one-hour, 10-minute contest.
“Yoshihito is a tough opponent. I think his weak point is his serve,” Medvedev assessed. “He knows how to return, how to run how to make some crazy shots when you don’t expect it.”
Continuing his fine form from the Australian Open, Medvedev has dropped just eight games in his past two matches, and 15 in total on the week.
Making his debut in Acapulco, he improves to 12-2 on the season and does his part to set up a blockbuster semi-final against Rafael Nadal — a rematch of their five-set Australian Open final. The Spaniard later confirmed that matchup with a 6-0, 7-6(5) win over Tommy Paul on Thursday night.
“If I play Rafa, it’s always special to play against him,” Medvedev said. “Kind of a chance to get my revenge.
“I have to learn from the best, which is him, Roger, Novak, Andy. Always when they were losing a tough fight, they were trying to get their revenge. Sometimes they managed to do it, sometimes not. That’s what I’m going to try to do if I play Rafa.”
Stefanos Tsitsipas followed Medvedev on the Acapulco stadium court, and continued his ruthless streak with a 6-3, 6-4 win over American Marcos Giron. After dropping just one game to J.J. Wolf in the second round, an aggressive Tsitsipas commanded the quarter-final match behind a pair of early breaks, one in each set.
That early damage proved enough for the Greek third seed, who saved four break points in a crucial seventh game of the opener. That was the only trouble he faced on serve in the one-hour, 20-minute match.
Tsitsipas used his all-court game to control the match, making an effort to finish points at the net with regularity.
“I was trying to open the court, trying to come in on the short balls,” he said of his tactics. “It was very good overall. I was able to come to the net and close a few at the net. It did help me a lot to to generate even more confidence, game after game. It paid off pretty well.”
Tsitsipas will challenge Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie in the semi-finals, after the sixth seed closed the Acapulco evening slate with a 6-1, 6-0 win Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk.