In-form Russian, Daniil Medvedev seeks a seventh consecutive victory and a spot in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters when he takes on mercurial Italian, Fabio Fognini on Friday.
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Medvedev is aiming to reach a sixth consecutive semi-final in a tremendous run of results that has seen him win 26 of his last 29 matches. That run has included five straight finals, winning a maiden Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, and the ATP 250 tournament in St. Petersburg. The other finals were in Washington (lost to Nick Kyrgios), Montreal and the US Open (fell to Rafael Nadal in both tournaments).
Medvedev might have done plenty of winning heading into Shanghai, but he had only ever managed one match win in the Chinese city, against Ze Zhang last year. The Russian fell to Roger Federer in the second round last season, while he was beaten by Lucas Pouille in his tournament debut a year earlier.
The world No. 4 has already doubled his Shanghai win tally this year, easing to a 6-3 6-1 victory over Cameron Norrie in the opening round, before pulling off a very tight 7-6 7-5 victory over Canadian, Vasek Pospisil in the second round on Thursday.
Pospisil definitely had his chances, especially in the opening set where he had five set points, but he couldn’t convert any of the opportunities- he double faulted on one of the set points- and Medvedev showed exactly how it is done, converting his first set point at 8-7 in the tie break to take the lead.
The match continued to be tight through the second set, with both men exchanging breaks at the start, and Medvedev saving three more break points in the seventh game, but the Russian found the match-winning breakthrough at the death to take the win after two hours and six minutes.
“I was down five set points, and also 2/5 [in the tie-break],” said Medvedev. “Usually the set is finished, when it’s like this, so I just tried to win every point I had to face, and finally it worked out.”
A lot has worked out for Medvedev this season, as he leads the tour with 56 match wins, while he’s won titles in Sofia, Cincinnati and St. Petersburg. He was runner-up in Brisbane, Barcelona, Washington and the US Open, and made semi-finals in Rotterdam, Monte Carlo and Queen’s.
The Russian has already qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time in his career, and one man hoping to join him is Italian, Fabio Fognini, whom he plays in Shanghai on Friday.
Competing in Shanghai for the ninth time, Fognini is into the quarter finals for the first time following wins over Sam Querrey, Andy Murray and Karen Khachanov. He’s dropped just one set all tournament, against Murray in the second round, when he twice broke back to stay in the contest before edging a tense encounter 7-6 2-6 7-6.
The Italian had fallen to Karen Khachanov in the quarter finals in Beijing last week, but he earned his revenge in Shanghai on Thursday, recovering from a break down in the second set to win 6-3 7-5.
“I’m happy because I lost to him last week,” said Fognini. “I was playing really good also. But I did some mistakes at the beginning of the second set, and after he was serving really good and he was pushing the ball really hard. But, I think, today, I was managing everything better than last week, so I’m really happy about my performance.”
Fognini is now 11th on the Race to the Nitto ATP Finals, with the top eight set to qualify for the season-ending event in London. He is 200 points behind eight-placed Alexander Zverev.
Fognini’s start to the season did not suggest he could be in contention for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals, as he won just four of his first twelve matches, but he picked up the pace dramatically in Monte Carlo, where he inflicted a very rare defeat on Rafael Nadal in the principality en route claiming his maiden Masters 1000 title.
He has been steady since then, reaching quarter finals in Hamburg, Los Cabos, Montreal and Beijing, and the Round of 16 in Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. Can he take another step towards London by taking down Medvedev on Friday?
Medvedev and Fognini have shared their two previous meetings, with the Italian winning in Cincinnati in 2017, and Medvedev responding with a three-set win in Sydney last year.
Fognini definitely possesses the talent to cause Medvedev plenty of problems, but he remains a mercurial character, and will need to operate at a very high level for virtually the entire match if he is to defeat the obdurate Medvedev.
Perhaps the extra incentive of Nitto ATP Finals qualification can push the Italian to his best?
Daniil Medvedev vs Fabio Fognini is live from Shanghai on Friday, 11 October from 12:30pm local time/ 5:30am BST