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A Kinder, Gentler Daniil Medvedev Ousts Stan Wawrinka


Daniil Medvedev drew cheers from the fans at the United States Open on Tuesday. It was the only upset of the day in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The man who intentionally adopted the role of tennis supervillain for two matches emerged as a more sympathetic figure in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

The fans on Tuesday seemed to appreciate how Medvedev fought through a leg injury. They noticed how he shared a smile with his opponent during a replay review, and in the end, they acknowledged his four-set victory over Stan Wawrinka was another feat in a remarkable summer of tennis.

The fifth-seeded Medvedev overcame soreness in his left adductor and left quadriceps to beat Wawrinka, 7-6 (6), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, and when it was over, Medvedev, who was on his best behavior all match, waved graciously to the crowd and asked their forgiveness.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “and thank you.”

The match was played during the day, likely leading to less drama and less alcohol to fuel the feud. So, the fans responded with polite applause. To be sure, the crowd was supporting Wawrinka. But there was virtually no booing.

That stood in contrast to Medvedev’s third-round night match against Feliciano López in Louis Armstrong Stadium on Friday, when he drew boos for some loutish on-court conduct, and then raised the stakes by encouraging the fans to boo even more by waving his arms in a bring-it-on gesture.

He conjured more abuse from the fans after he beat Dominik Köpfer in the fourth round in Armstrong on Sunday night, and later described how the hostile atmosphere motivated him to fight through his injuries and play better.

“What I got I deserved and usually I’m not like I was in the third-round match,” he said after Tuesday’s win. “I’m not proud of it. But I’m working on it and hopefully I can show the bright side of myself.”

He needed no gimmickry on Tuesday. He just played the same brand of tennis that he showcased all summer, going 19-2 on hardcourts and reaching the finals in Washington, Montreal and Cincinnati. (He also played two doubles matches in August, adding to his workload).

In the semifinals, Medvedev will play the winner of Tuesday night’s quarterfinal between No. 3 Roger Federer and unseeded Grigor Dimitrov. If he draws Federer, Medvedev will most likely go right back to being the hated opposition in the eyes of the fans.

But for those able to look past the histrionics in Armstrong, Medvedev is a captivating talent whose wide variety of shots, including a potent backhand that he can keep low as it crosses the net, forcing some of the best players out of their comfort zones.

At age 23, on a bad leg, Medvedev overpowered and confused a three-time Grand Slam champion in Wawrinka, who had dominated No. 1 Novak Djokovic in their fourth-round encounter on Sunday.

“He’s playing a different ball,” Wawrinka said. “He’s really solid from baseline. Playing really flat backhand. For me, I wasn’t at my best today. I wasn’t moving great. I didn’t mix enough my game. And at the end, it was a struggle.”

The match opened auspiciously for Medvedev, who broke Wawrinka’s serve in the first game. But at 4-3 he required medical attention and had his upper left leg taped. Two games later, Wawrinka, the 23rd seed, broke back to even the set at 5-5.

In the tiebreaker, Wawrinka served for the set, leading by 6-5. But Medvedev won the next three points, punctuated by a 127-mile-per-hour serve that Wawrinka bunted back long.

“I felt the way I won was quite ugly because that’s what I had to do,” Medvedev said. “I’m still really painful in my leg and I had to play without rhythm.”

Wawrinka said he knew Medvedev would fight through the injury, and it did not affect how Wawrinka played.

“I saw him play the last few matches and been saying he has pain,” Wawrinka said. “And for sure he has pain. Some players like to show everybody they have pain. Some others hide it. I’m pretty sure all the players, 95 percent, we all have pain.”

Medvedev will not have to play again until Friday, and the extra day off will be welcome. Wawrinka noted that the Medvedev had the talent to win the U.S. Open this year, but doubted he would.

“Because he starts to look to be tired,” Wawrinka said, “and he has to beat some more tougher players in the semifinal, Roger or Grigor, and then the final. But he’s showing last few weeks that anything can happen with him.”


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