Defending Diriyah Tennis Cup champion Daniil Medvedev kicked off his defense off the trophy with a superb quarterfinal win over German star Alexander Zverev as 12 of the world’s leading players returned to the Kingdom for the tournament’s first edition since 2019.
The three-day competition with the Super Tie-break format kicked off on Thursday in the setting of At-Turaif, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Diriyah, and will conclude with the final on Dec. 10.
Medvedev, who has never lost in Saudi Arabia, raced to a 6-0 first set win despite a minor injury scare to his calf. The world No. 7 then proceeded to see out a competitive second set 6-4 against Zverev, who was making his eagerly awaited comeback from a seven-month injury lay-off.
“I felt I played better in the second set than the first one, but Sascha was really getting better as well,” said Medvedev.
“My injury was not so bad in the end. I was sliding unintentionally. My knee hit my calf, felt like a foul in football. It was painful to walk, but funnily I was much better to run. I love the crowd and how they cheered for me and look forward to tomorrow. We still have some weeks before the Australian Open to prepare more but I’m here and I want to win.”
Briton Cameron Norrie defeated Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios in target sets in the first round, before overcoming Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals.
Norrie, a 2022 Wimbledon semifinalist, was sharp and efficient in his 6-4, 6-4 win over world No.4 Tsitsipas — forcing the Greek star into uncharacteristic unforced errors in front of a lively crowd under the Diriyah Arena lights.
“The crowd really helped me through it,” said Norrie. “Playing in a stadium like this also helps a great deal in my preparation for the season. It has been a very good day and the crowd really got into tonight chanting our names. We’re trying to inspire some of the younger Saudi players and I saw some kids and that’s a reason I’m playing here — to inspire a new generation.”
Stan Wawrinka, the only competitor in his thirties in this week’s field, proved once again that he is still of the highest caliber by defeating Andrey Rublev, the eighth-ranked player in the world, 6-7, 6-2, 10-6 (tie break).
“It’s my second time here, I enjoy being here. There are many things going on,” Wawrinka, who visited Saudi in 2019, told Arab News.
“Now we don’t have too much time because we have to be ready in focus for tournaments because that’s why we are here — to try to do our best 27 days or longer on site. But I enjoy being here. And as I said, hopefully, I will have more time in the next few days or maybe next year to visit even more.
“I’m glad I won today, and I believe I’ll be able to get for the grade level; we played a great game, and I’m excited to be back here tomorrow in the semifinals,” he added.
After defeating Dominic Stricker 7-6, 7-5, American Taylor Fritz, who is ranked in ninth in the world, completed the lineup for tomorrow’s semifinals.
Earlier in the day, there were four Round One matches with a fast-moving best-of-three Super Tie-break format. There were wins for Wawrinka, Norrie, Hubert Hurkacz and Alexander Zverev. The event’s top four seeded players — Tsitsipas, Medvedev, Rublev and Fritz — had all received a bye.
In addition to the singles competition, there is also a doubles competition at the Diriyah Tennis Cup this year.
Over the course of the three-day tournament, Saudi tennis fans will have the chance to take in these thrilling matches and special interactions with some of the top tennis players in the world.
First Round Results:
Stan Wawrinka beat Matteo Berrettini (5-10, 10-4, 10-6)
Alexander Zverev beat Dominic Thiem (10-8, 10-7)
Cameron Norrie beat Nick Kyrgios (10-6, 10-6)
Hubert Hurkacz beat Dominic Stricker (10-7, 10-5)
The Diriyah Tennis Cup continues on Friday with the semifinals and a new doubles competition for Thursday’s losers:
Daniil Medvedev vs. Stan Wawrinka
Cameron Norrie vs. Taylor Fritz
Alexander Zverev & Dominic Thiem vs. Andrey Rublev & Matteo Berrettini
Nick Kyrgios & Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Dominic Stricker & Hubert Hurkacz
The semifinals take place on Friday, Dec. 9.