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Daniil Medvedev, of Russia, serves to Stan Wawrinka, of Switzerland, during the quarterfinals of the US Open tennis championships Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Daniil Medvedev, of Russia, serves to Stan Wawrinka, of Switzerland, during the quarterfinals of the US Open tennis championships Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)|Associated Press
Tennis

U.S. Open men's semifinal No. 1: Abrams picks Daniil Medvedev vs Grigor Dimitrov

The match starts Saturday at 4 pm EDT.

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

2019 U.S. Open

Flushing Meadows, NY, USA

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Men’s Semis

Daniil Medvedev over Grigor Dimitrov

Tomorrow the duels begin at 4 p.m. in the Arthur Ashe Stadium as the four men left standing square off for the right to move forward and bless us with their skills Sunday late afternoon. In the first war, Russia’s 6’6” soldier, Daniil Medevev, who has the most wins on the ATP Tour this year, squares off against Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, who is Medvedev’s neighbor in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

Medvedev made it here the hard way, as a villain, as it is, but Dimitrov’s path was through Roger Federer, so, for that and many other reasons pertaining to the Russian’s odd behavior this week, Dimitrov will be heading into this collision as the crowd favorite. Unfortunately for him, the numbers favor Dimitrov.

Prior to this tournament, the Russian boasted a 2019 record of 44-16, with two titles. His ranking and seeding, #5, is a very accurate reflection of his accomplishments, as he has wins over pretty much everybody. Just before the Open, he won the Western & Southern in Cincinnati where, in that Open tune-up he beat Kyle Edmund, Benoit Paire, Jan-Lennard Struff, Andrey Ruvlev, Novak Djokovic and David Goffin. He gave up one set only—to Djokovic in the semis, but dominated every match. The week before, in Montreal, he beat Edmund again before dominating Cristian Garin, Dominic Thiem, and Karen Khachanov before losing in the finals to Nadal. Before that? In Washington, D.C. he got to the finals again beating Marin Cilic before being stopped by Nick Kyrgios, at his best, for the trophy. He beat Djokovic again in Monte Carlo, where he also stopped Stefanos Tsitsipas, so he’s shown he can beat anybody. He’s had trouble with only two players this year: Kyrgios, who is long gone, and Nadal, who he would be the underdog to on Sunday, if they both win Friday.

Dimitrov is another story entirely, and a feel-good one at that. The Bulgarian, who is an absolute brilliant ball striker, was ranked as high as #3 as recently as November, 2017. But his ranking has fallen steadily since then, as he encountered a few nagging injuries, including one on an ankle and another on his shoulder, and then he missed seven full weeks this year with another shoulder injury. The 28-year-old’s ranking fell consistently until it bottomed out at #78, where it stands now – one of the lowest-ranked U.S. Open semi-finalists in history.

Dimitrov has had a particularly rough time trying to win matches as it seemed that every other week he drew Stan Wawrinka, whom he found it impossible to beat. Frankly, it became both funny and sad, as these guys could have begun to travel together since their schedules appeared to mirror one another’s. They met in the 2018 Wimbledon and U.S. Open, here, and then again, back to back this year in both Montreal and Cincinnati, as well as in Paris for the French Open. Yet Dimitrov showed small glimmers of hope, as he began to hit the ball well, and was just losing matches, entering this tournament with a 12-15 record for the year.

But two weeks ago, when the Open began, Dimitrov emerged from his stupor, raised his game, and started to win again. The winning snowballed, and here he has taken out Andreas Seppi, got a walkover from Borna Coric, then beat Kamil Majchrzak, Alex de Minaur, and finally Roger Federer, 6-2 in the fifth. The win over Federer, where The Fed led 2 sets to 1, against an opponent whom he had never lost to, proved that Dimitrov had overcome his lack of confidence, and was playing well enough to beat anybody and everybody.

Unfortunately for Dimitrov, Medvedev is one opponent in which he will need much more than confidence to beat. The Russian is serving bombs, one after another. He’s hitting his forehand with a ton of power and leverage, and hits a two-handed backhand in which he seldom makes an error. The Russian moves well, and can volley, yet is rarely seen at the net because he generally wins points before getting there. But he’s impossible to lob over, and has a large enough wingspan to cover from sideline to sideline when camped in the frontcourt. In short, this match is Medvedev’s to lose. Dimitrov will have to attack from the first point to the last to remain effective. He has a habit of attacking and then playing defense for a stretch, and if he does that, he’ll get killed. We’ll see a lot of great shots, and it should be very entertaining, but Medvedev will win, much to the chagrin of the crowd. I’d add one caveat however, and that’s if Medvedev cramps, anything could happen.

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