Third seed Daniil Medvedev beat world #1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia 6-4 6-4 in the semifinal of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Friday, continuing his excellent recent form. The match was over within two hours, leaving a rejuvenated Medvedev a step closer to winning his third title in as many tournaments with his compatriot Andrey Rublev now his only remaining obstacle in Dubai. But what were the keys to the Russian’s victory?
Cross-court exchanges key
Both players preferred to stay on the baseline throughout the match and hardly ventured forward to the net in the first set. There were a lot of cross-court backhand exchanges between the two in the match, with both players opting to play slices intermittently. But it was the 27-year-old Medvedev who had the better of those exchanges. He used his inside-in forehand particularly effectively, catching Djokovic off-guard more than once.
The Serbian, who had won his first 15 matches of 2023, and had not suffered a defeat since losing to Holger Rune in the final in Bercy, lacked his usual sharpness in the baseline exchanges. He attempted to wear Medvedev down in long rallies, but there are few players fitter than the Russian and the 35-year-old Djokovic, for all his considerable quality, is not the physical force he once was.
Medvedev covers every inch of the court
Medvedev has earned his reputation as one of the best athletes on the ATP Tour and he demonstrated his excellent court coverage once again against Djokovic. The world #1 tried to drag him into the net by playing drop shots at times in the second set, but Medvedev was, for the most part, able to reach the ball in good time and take control of the rally.
He also served and returned very well, breaking early in both sets and maintaining that advatage. He convereted three of his four break points, being broken just once himself. No mean feat against a returner of Djokovic’s ability. Crucially, he won 78% of the points behind his first serve in the match, whereas Djokovic managed only 67%. That ultimately proved to be the difference between the pair, with Medvedev collecting his fifth win in 14 meetings with Djokovic.
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