Daniil Medvedev added a slightly more straightforward chapter to his rollercoaster 2023 BNP Paribas Open story on Saturday, when he eased past Frances Tiafoe 7-5, 7-6(4) to reach his maiden final at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells.
Aside from letting slip seven match points and being broken twice when serving for the match late in the semi-final clash, the fifth seed delivered a high-class all-around display to extend his winning streak to 19 matches. Having so far claimed ATP Tour titles in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai during his run, the former World No. 1 is now within one match of becoming the first man to win four titles in five weeks since Andy Murray in 2016.
“It was crazy at the end,” said Medvedev. “I got super tight. I would say that [after] 6-5, 40/0, I think I got tight at deuce when I was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s a lot of opportunities missed, this could go not well for me’. So I got really tight, [but] I still managed to continue playing good… The ace [on match point] was a relief, I’m just really happy that I managed not to lose this match.”
As he has been throughout his red-hot run, Medvedev was relentless from the baseline throughout the one-hour, 47-minute clash. Yet he also sprinkled into his performance a series of magical moments that left an at-times exasperated Tiafoe — himself one of the biggest crowd-pleasers on Tour — with few chances to counter.
Medvedev rolled his ankle in his fourth-round victory against Alexander Zverev and then cut his thumb badly in his quarter-final win against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. After overcoming those challenges and then defeating Tiafoe, he booked an appointment with second seed Carlos Alcaraz or 11th seed Jannik Sinner in Sunday’s championship match. The 27-year-old is chasing his fifth Masters 1000 crown, and his first since 2021.
“I’m playing better and better I would say,” said Medvedev, who had admitted struggling with the slower conditions in his early rounds in the California desert. “When I rolled my ankle I started playing better on this court!
“They’re still not my favourite conditions to play, so that’s why also at the end [today] I was struggling probably. On any other court I could do better with the match points, but we never know. But when you’re in the final you cannot complain, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow and hope I can play my best tennis.”
Despite his late struggles, Medvedev’s serve proved crucial to his victory overall. The World No. 6 won 80 per cent (35/44) of points behind his first delivery as he restricted Tiafoe’s ability to attack freely on return.
Medvedev moved ahead on Stadium 1 by carving a stunning reaction forehand pass off his toes at 5-5, 30/40. That earned him the sole break of an opening set in which his watertight groundstrokes proved too much for Tiafoe, who could not find the consistency to avoid dropping his first set of the tournament.
When Medvedev then broke Tiafoe’s serve again in the opening game of second set and progressed to 5-3, Tiafoe’s hopes of reaching his maiden Masters 1000 title appeared over. After failing to convert three match points on Tiafoe’s serve, however, three consecutive breaks of serve — which included Tiafoe saving four further match points from 40/0 on Medvedev’s serve at 5-6 — ensured a tie-break.
Tiafoe, whose whipped cross-court forehand in particular had powered his remarkable recovery, was again able to put a slow start behind him to turn 1/5 into 4/5 in the tie-break. Medvedev made no mistake with his eighth match point, however. He sent down an ace to seal his spot in the final and improve his ATP Head2Head series lead against the American to 5-0.
Despite falling just short of reaching his maiden Masters 1000 final, the 25-year-old Tiafoe will on Monday return to his career-high of No. 14 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings as a result of his run in Indian Wells.