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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, March 14, 2023


Daniil Medvedev survived a crash to the court, a twisted ankle and Alexander Zverev to reach his first Indian Wells quarterfinal, but can he play on?

Photo credit: Harry How/Getty

Branding himself a "hard court specialist", Daniil Medvedev spent three bruising hours exploring his dysfunctional relationship with the purple Indian Wells surface.

Berating the court in the first set, Medvedev took a beating from it in the second set.

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Crashing to the court after rolling his right ankle, Medvedev stripped off his sock and shoe and watched his ankle swell, while opponent Alexander Zverev, who suffered his own horrific ankle injury at Roland Garros last spring, offered moral support.

Many may have retired, but Medvedev took a medical time-out for a tape job then stepped it up big time.

Showing strong survival skills, Medvedev rallied by Zverev 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-5 in an epic to reach his first career BNP Paribas Open quarterfinal—and extend his winning streak to 17 matches.

He may call himself a hard-court specialist, but at his core Medvedev is a hard-core competitor.

"When I twisted [the right ankle], I thought I was going to stand up just fine," Medvedev said afterward. "But then the pain started growing very fast, so I was like 'That is not a good sign.' I felt like I didn't break it but I felt that one of the ligaments was a little injured, so I thought I wasn't going to be able to play.

"It was one of the first times in my life that the physio had taped my ankle, so I decided to give it a try. What was surprising was it was much easier to run than walk. So when I was walking I was limping and then I was running fine."

It would be a pity for injury to end this superb winning streak; Medvedev said he plans to have a scan on his ankle before deciding if he can play the quarterfinal.

"When the adrenaline goes down, it will be pretty painful, so I am going to probably do a scan to see what it is and if I can continue to play," Medvedev said.

This sweaty thriller was packed with plot twists.

Ultimately, Medvedev's tremendous poise under break-point pressure—he saved 15 of 17 break points—and his willingness to amp up his aggression after twisting his ankle were key components to a thrilling three-hour, 17-minute victory.

Winning his first meeting with Zverev since the 2021 ATP Finals, Medvedev edged ahead 7-6 in their head-to-head series.

Continuing his quest for a fourth consecutive title, the fifth-seeded Medevev is scheduled to meet Alejandro Davidovich Fokina for a semifinal spot, if he's healthy enough to give it a go.

Earlier, the 23rd-seeded Spaniard ended Chilean qualifier Cristian Garin's inspired run with a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Feeling the pressure posed by the Olympic gold-medal champion, his winning streak and a history of hard knocks in Tennis Paradise: until today Indian Wells was the only hard-court ATP Masters 1000 event where he had yet to reach the quarterfinals, Medvedev was ornery at times.

Serving at 5-6, love-40, Medvedev dug in and denied three set points, erasing the third with a slick fake drive into a backhand drop shot winner. He held to force the first-set tiebreaker after 54 minutes.

Zverev carved a soft backhand drop volley to go up 5-4. Medvedev saved a fourth set point with an ace wide.

On set point No. 5, Zverev flipped the script executing a beautiful serve-and-volley to take the 62-minute opener.

Cue the venting from Medvedev, who unleashed his angst telling the chair umpire this court has no place in the sport.

"We should be banned from playing here," Medvedev railed. "Freaking disgrace to the sport, this freaking court and they call it a hard court!

"What a shame to call this awful court a hard court."

As he embarked on a bathroom break, Medvedev took his court case several slow steps further.

"I will be as slow as the court," Medvedev said. "If they allow us to play on such a court, I can allow myself to do whatever."

Still, Medvedev fought back from love-40 down to hold for a 2-1 second-set lead, marking his third hold from a love-40 hole.

Zverev was serving at 2-3 when Medvedev's foot stuck to the surface and he crashed to court twisting his right ankle in the process. Medvedev immediately stripped off his shoe and sock to survey the damage while Zverev immediately came over to offer for moral support.

After about an eight-minute medical timeout that saw Medvedev gritting his teeth he came back ready to assert aggression.

In the second set tiebreaker, Zverev smashed off a serve-and-volley only to see Medvedev pull off a wildly creative bounce-smash pass from behind the baseline. Bending the ball by his opponent gave Medvedev the mini break and a 2-1 lead he extended to 4-1.

Cracking a crosscourt forehand pass, Zverev got the mini break back for 4-5. The German's forehand is not quite as reliable as his rock-solid backhand. Zverev missed another forehand as Medvedev earned set points.

On his second set point, Medvedev dabbed a forehand volley to take the second and force a decider.

Former world No. 2 Zverev played big and bold tennis at times and showed a sharpened net game.  The former ATP Finals champion broke when Medvedev served for it at 5-4. 

Pressure provoked the boomerang break as Zverev hit his third double fault at the three hour, 13-minute mark recoiling at the crucial miss that gave Medvedev another shot to serve it out. This time, Medvedev found the finish line, but can he continue to compete in the desert on that gimpy ankle?


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