As the quarter final line up is completed on Day Eight in Melbourne, there can be no denying that Russian tennis is on the move as by the end of the day session, three of their players were sitting comfortably in the last eight of the AO – the first time that three Russian men have made that stage of a Grand Slam in the Open Era.
At least one of us [Russian players] will be in the semis. At least that’s the good news. Andrey Rublev
Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev joined qualifier Aslan Karatsev (who won his place yesterday) and there was no doubt that there was some sense of pride in their achievement.
Joining Karatsev first was Rublev, the world number eight who booked his first quarter final in a major when Norwegian Casper Ruud was forced to retire after dropping the first two sets.
Ruud picked up an abdominal injury but held his own during those sets but decided to retire when he failed to level the score after 77-minutes of play, after losing the second set tie-break.
The seventh seeded Rublev was always in control with his heavier armoury of shots as Ruud struggled to gain a break. In contrast the Russian converted two of his six break chances in the opening set to maintain pressure on his Norwegian adversary.
Ruud needed a medical time out in the second set as he struggled with an abdominal injury but then recovered a break and ran off four consecutive games to lead 5-3.
Rublev responded to force a tie-break where he quickly pulled ahead with series of winners and broke Ruud’s spirit when he captured it to lead 6-2 7-6(3).
Rublev hit 22 winners to maintain his record of not dropping a set so far.
His reward is a meeting with compatriot Medvedev who has beaten him in their three previous meetings and, with both on a winning streak since the start of the season, it should prove most interesting clash!
“At least one of us [Russian players] will be in the semis,” Rublev said in his post-match interview. “At least that’s the good news. But it’s going to be a tough match. I mean, last time he beat me in the quarters in the US Open. Now we’re again in quarters in the Australian Open. So we’ll see what’s going to happen. I hope we can show a great fight and great level.”
Like Rublev, Medvedev is also in scintillating form as he dispatched American Mackenzie McDonald 6-4 6-2 6-3 to reach the last eight.
The Russian was fresh from a five-set marathon against Filip Krajinovic in the third round but showed no signs of fatigue as he rushed into a 5-1 lead.
The American put up a fight in the opening set but that was extinguished somewhat, when Medvedev claimed it at the second time of asking.
From that moment the Russian number one cruised through the second, dominating the play with his serve and after one-hour and 29-minutes, improved his run of consecutive wins to 18.
“It was a great match. I was feeling the ball great, I was serving great. The only time I lost serve was at 5-2 in the first set, which didn’t matter so much,” a delighted Medvedev, the fourth seed, said during his on court interview.
“I felt good on the court, I finished in one hour 30, which is important in the later stages of a Grand Slam, so I’m really happy.
“When you play Mackenzie many times, he’s going to be in control of the game, and you need to defend and put some low balls because he plays so flat and aggressively.
“I managed to take all my chances today I think. First time in the quarters in Australia… that’s a great achievement for me, I think. I want more all the time, but step by step.”