February 26th, 2024

Medvedev into semifinals; Yastremska, Zheng to meet for a spot in Australian Open women’s final

By Simon Cambers, The Associated Press on January 24, 2024.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Daniil Medvedev outlasted ninth-seeded Hubert Hurkacz 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 on Wednesday to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open for the third time in four years.

In a grueling four-hour match containing numerous rallies of 20-plus shots, Medvedev held off a comeback attempt from Hurkacz to advance.

Medvedev will meet either Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz or Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev, who were playing later Wednesday, for a place in the final.

The women’s semifinal lineup is complete after 12th-seeded Zheng Qinwen and Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska won their quarterfinals Wednesday to join 2023 champion Aryna Sabalenka and U.S. Open winner Coco Gauff in the last four.

Zheng and Yastremska have never gone so far in a major. They’ll play Thursday for a spot in the final after Yastremska beat Linda Noskova 6-3, 6-4 in the day session and Zheng rallied to fend off Anna Kalinskaya 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-1 at night.

Medvedev, who won the 2021 U.S. Open and is a two-time finalist in Australia, appeared on course for a more straight-forward victory when he led 4-2 in the fourth set but Hurkacz raised his game to take it to a decider.

Medvedev took the decisive break in the seventh game of the fifth and held on for victory, capped with a drop shot.

“I’m so destroyed right now,” Medvedev, his hands clasped behind his head, said in his on-court interview. “I was feeling very tough physically in the send set already.”

The No. 3-ranked Medvedev has had a tough run in Melbourne, including a nearly 4 1/2-hour, five-set second-round match that finished close to 4 a.m. and when he admitted he was already thinking about the flight home.

The trip home entered his mind again against Hurkacz, when he resolved to throw out the game plan and do whatever he could to turn things around.

That included reverting to a risky serve-volley strategy on some points, and standing up near the baseline to receive serves – much closer than he usually does owing to his usual deep positioning.

In the opening match on Day 11, No. 93-ranked Yastremska became only the second qualifier to reach the women’s singles semis in Australia in the Open era, after Christine Storey in 1978.

“It’s nice to make history because at that time I was not born,” said Yastremska, who was born in 2000. “I’m super-happy, very tired.”

Noskova beat top-ranked Iga Swiatek on her way to her first Slam quarterfinal and struck first, breaking for a 2-1 lead in the first set.

But Yastremska broke back immediately and from that moment on, Noskova was always playing catch up. The Ukrainian broke again to lead 5-2 and served out for the set. One break, in the seventh game of the second, was enough to seal victory.

“I was a little bit nervous, but at the same time tired. I think I was a little bit too emotional,” she said. “Before my match I got angry at the practice (with) my coach. But that’s fine, because I could put my emotions away. Yeah, another step is done.”

In the night match, Zheng was down a set and 3-2 before winning 10 of the next 11 games to earn a spot in a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time.

The first set contained four service breaks and went to a tiebreaker before Kalinskaya took six of the last seven points to edge in front.

Zheng, a U.S. Open quarterfinalist last year, seized control midway through the second set. And, after Kalinskaya held serve to open the third, Zheng won 12 straight points.

She led 4-1 when Kalinskaya needed a medical timeout for treatment on her upper right leg, and returned to finish off the match quickly after the break.

“Really excited. First time for me,” Zheng said. “Really happy to be in the semifinals, especially with such a good performance like this.”

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AP Sports Writer John Pye contributed.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

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