Novak Djokovic stunned in Cincinnati as Medvedev closes in on top-five debut

Novak Djokovic had no complaints as he failed to defend his Cincinnati Masters title, insisting Daniil Medvedev was simply ‘too good’ in their semi-finals match-up.

The world No. 1 looked on course to return to the final of the Western & Southern Open after taking a one-set lead, with his Russian opponent Medvedev struggling with a bicep injury.

However, the 23-year-old upped his aggression – particularly behind the second serve – and overcame the 16-time Grand Slam champion 3-6 6-3 6-3.

‘I thought I played a really good match,’ said Djokovic, who has now lost back-to-back matches to his opponent. ‘Maybe in the third set when I was broken at 1-all I could have done a little bit better, but when someone serves a 128 miles-per-hour second serve and doesn’t make too many double faults and goes for every shot, you just have to put your hat down and congratulate him.

‘He played amazing tennis from 4-3 in the second set. Not much that I could really do. I tried to return his serve. And when I had my racquet on the ball I was returning his serves, but you can’t really predict someone or prepare yourself for someone serving that big a second serve consistently.

‘He definitely has a lot of confidence. When you have so much confidence, then obviously you allow yourself to go for these kind of shots. I congratulate him. He deserved to win the match.’

‘He’s working his way to the top-five. He’s definitely one of the best players in the world… He certainly improved since Australian Open this year. His forehand is better. His movement is better. I mean, his serve was always big. I did not experience this too many times in my career that someone goes so big on second serves and just serves two first serves basically for an extended period of time.

‘That’s one of those things where you just take your chances. I don’t think I can kind of say that he improved his second serve. He was serving two first serves from one point of the match til the end of the match. But before that, when I could take my chance on the second serve, I was doing pretty well. But there is certainly an evolution in his game and improvement. He’s going in the right direction and it’s why he’s doing so well.’

Medvedev – contesting his sixth ATP final this season – will now take on Belgium’s David Goffin for the title, with victory guaranteeing him a top-five debut in the ATP rankings.

While he is yet to make a breakthrough at Slam level, the uber consistent world No. 8 has enjoyed a remarkable season and will contest his second Masters 1000 final in the space of two weeks, having lost to Rafael Nadal in the Rogers Cup just a week ago.

It’s his third consecutive tour-level final in what’s been a fruitful summer on the American hard courts but he’s hoping to take home a title against Masters 1000 final debutant Goffin, who beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 in the other semi-final.

‘To be honest, I don’t know how I did it,’ Medvedev told ESPN. ‘I was so tired in the first set and playing Novak I thought I wasn’t able to keep the intensity. Then, the one momentum change in the second set was the difference. The crowd gave me so much energy.

‘Usually I’ll go bigger on my second serve when it’s not working and Novak was just destroying me in the first set. At one moment, I said to myself why do a normal second serve if I’m going to lose the point. I started to win much more after that.’

On facing Goffin – who beat him in a five-set thriller at Wimbledon last month – he added with a smile: ‘I need to win.

‘No, actually, my mentality is always I take every match the same, from the first round, because I always say if you lose in the first round you won’t be in the final, so why to take it different?

‘Talking about the final against Rafa, it was a tough one. I would say actually I don’t have any regrets. I mean, if it would be 7-6 in the third, then I would be sitting here, saying I had my chances. I had zero chances.

‘Against Nick [Kyrgios, in the Citi Open final in Washington], I had my chances. I didn’t use them. I’m going to go out there tomorrow and be ready to fight, be consistent, and hopefully I can be the winner.’

Djokovic will now head to New York in a bid to defend his US Open title and win a third major in 2019.

Despite the loss, he still fancies his chances of going all the way in Flushing Meadows.

‘I see mostly positives really in my game, the Serb added. ‘Today I did lose a tennis match, but I didn’t do too much wrong. I lost to a player that was playing amazing, so I’ll take that and I’ll move forward to New York and have a good practice week.

‘Then, of course, get myself ready for the Open. I love playing in those conditions there on centre court. I’m going to fight for a title as everyone else does, and I like my chances. I feel good and I look forward to it.’

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