In the depths of a tiebreak in one of the best sets tennis has played this year, Nick Kyrgios hits his racket and then heads for his box, his face a picture of rage. He saved three set points with some brave touches, but then when he created a serve of his own, he was let down by tremendous durability and defense. Daniel MedvedevThe world’s number one ranked player.
It might have failed in an anti-climax not too long ago, when he surged to the baseline with the tiebreak level at 11-11. But not these days. Under immense pressure, Kyrgios showed his ball-striking ability down the line as he exploded down the line backhand, then immediately followed up with a delicate drop shot winner that set the tone for what was to come.
Kyrgios’ career-best summer continued for another day in an intense, high-profile clash that felt much bigger than a fourth-round encounter, as he defeated the defending champion and world No. 1 7-6 (11-9), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Account reached the quarterfinals of the US Open for the first time in his career.
It was another step in a year where Kyrgios learned how to manage himself professionally, focusing on how to improve his success on the court. Kyrgios is now 35-9 in 2022. He has won more matches than any other player this summer, and if he were awarded those 1200 points in his Wimbledon final run, he would be comfortably in the top eight in the ATP race. Behind Medvedev.
Despite billing and Kyrgios’ seeding in the fourth round, it was a heavyweight battle between the best and the most in-form players in the top half of the draw. The quality and tension emanating from them in the opening games only underscored their mutual respect.
For an hour, despite how well Kyrgios played, Medvedev refused to quit. He returned brilliantly, deflecting 134mph to within centimeters of the baseline, and he infuriated Kyrgios with his defence, soaking up all the changes of speed, direction and spin. They traded breaks and then battled to the depths of a first-set tiebreak. But Kyrgios’ bravery was different. After Medvedev saved Kyrgios’ third set point, the Australian clinched the set with a slick drop shot.
By the end of the set, they had combined for 44 winners and 20 unforced errors. However, the challenge is to maintain such a high level. Kyrgios’ form dropped sharply at the start of the second set. He immediately threw his worst service game and after four games, he was already on the verge of dropping the set. Medvedev, meanwhile, simply did not miss. He made just five unforced errors as he tied the match.
For all the quality tennis, there was a certain moment of stupidity. At 1-0, 30-30 on Medvedev’s serve, Kyrgios hit a forehand passing shot as Medvedev extended a flat hand to his forehand. The ball hit Medvedev’s racket and flew into the sky. It would have bounced to Medvedev’s side, but caught in the ecstasy of a better point, Kyrgios ran to Medvedev’s side. He threw the ball in the air in celebration, with a smile on his face. Medvedev lost the point as the ball still hadn’t bounced. Even Kyrgios, a man who can beef with his own shadow, couldn’t argue with the call.
A defining misjudgment at a crucial moment is just a minor detour on the road to success. Two games later, Kyrgios played his best return game of the match, taking advantage of Medvedev’s missed first serves to easily break the Russian’s serve to take a third-set lead. From that moment on, Kyrgios played at a stratospheric level and breezed through the rest of the set, never looking back for last year’s champion.
Medvedev came into the US Open with a huge target on his back but lacked the form to quell his challenges. Although he hasn’t played badly, his form has clearly dropped since last year. Of the six finals he has reached in the past year, he has won only one title. In previous iterations of this match-up, Medvedev would have been the player to retain his position as Kyrgios lost in the second round of the Australian Open in January. But Kyrgios is a changed player these days and he was determined until the end.
Kyrgios has never played well in New York, with his previous best finish coming in the third round, but now he is the clear favorite in his first quarter-final. He opened the tournament by talking about how much he was looking forward to flying home and being reunited with his family when the US Open ended.
Kyrgios next faces 27th seed Karen Kachanov, who reached her first US Open quarter-final with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 win over Pablo Carreno Busta.
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