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US Open 2021 – No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, the 2019 US Open finalist, returned to the final in Flushing with a brisk, straight-sets victory over Felix Auger-Aliassime, the 12th-seeded Canadian, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2.

The Russian served 12 aces and won a devastating 81% of his first-serve points, while notching a perfect five-for-five on break-point chances on his opponent’s serve. Medvedev has now lost but a single set in advancing to the final.

“I don’t think I played my best today,” said Medvedev, sounding ominous, “but I am happy to be in the final on Sunday.”

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“In the second set, I think everyone felt it was going to be one-set-all, and you never know where the match is going to go. I managed to save the set points […] and the match turned around completely,” the Russian said

In the opening game of the match, Auger-Aliassime, 21, double-faulted three times but still managed to hold. In the crucial seventh game of the first set, however, Medvedev’s rangy defense forced two forehand errors from the Canadian. A deep return forced a third, and the Russian claimed, at love, the only break of serve he would require.

Behind very strong serving, Medvedev raced through his service games. The No. 2 won 80% of his first-serve points, and only needed to serve five second serves in the entire set. Medvedev got into a brief hole serving for the set at love-30, but he quickly snuffed out any danger with three consecutive serve winners, including his sixth ace, to capture the opening set.

The second set brought an unexpected role reversal; Auger-Aliassime’s level of play improved as Medvedev’s dropped, particularly the Russian’s impeccable serving. Medvedev double-faulted to give the Canadian a break of serve and a 5-2 lead.

However, the Canadian’s fortunes quickly changed again. Serving to notch the match at one-set-all, Auger-Aliassime was broken at love behind smacked groundstroke winners by Medvedev. The wheels quickly came off for a dispirited Auger-Aliassime. In a matter of minutes, he went from serving for the set to being two sets down and eyeing the exits.

When he faced two set points in the second frame on Auger-Aliassime’s serve, Medvedev stated what could be his mantra: “I’m going to make you play.”

Medvedev made sure there would be no comebacks in the final set. He broke serve twice to run away with the match. The Russian plays the winner of tonight’s other semifinal between Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev.

WHAT IT MEANS: With his victory, Medvedvev returns to a Slam final for the third time. He lost the 2019 US Open final to Rafael Nadal in a five-set match that lasted nearly five hours. Medvedev lost in straight sets to Djokovic at this year’s Australian Open final, in a match that for the Russian was a rather dismal performance. At last year’s US Open, Medvedev didn’t surrender a single set until the semifinals, but there he lost in three sets to the eventual champion Dominic Thiem.

Since the beginning of the 2021 US Open, the Moscovite has been tagged as one of perhaps only two realistic foils—along with No. 4 Zverev—to Djokovic’s quest for the Grand Slam. In the eyes of some observers, however, Medvedev’s unique, unorthodox game may be the one that poses the greatest challenges for Djokovic

The 12th seed Auger-Aliassime became the first Canadian men’s semifinalist in US Open history, and the youngest men’s semifinalist since Juan Martín del Potro in 2009 (del Potro, of course, went on to win the championship that year). It is the Canadian’s best performance in a Slam.

Auger-Aliassime is an athletic, offense-minded player who has been expected to make inroads at majors and other important ATP tournaments for several years. Now 21, the Canadian is beginning to fulfil his promise.

MATCH POINT: Just prior to taking the court, Medvedev was asked the reason for his success in reaching the US Open semifinals three years in a row. “Hard courts, honestly,” said the Russian. Medvedev has won 11 of his 12 career titles on hard courts, including four ATP Masters 1000 events.

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