DUBAI: Daniil Medvedev booked his place in the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Thursday night following a comfortable win over Alejando Davidovich Fokina 6-2, 6-3.
The victory saw the world No. 4 extend his winning streak to eight at the Dubai Tennis Stadium and took him one step closer to becoming the first male since Roger Federer in 2015 to successfully defend the Dubai title.
Medvedev, into his sixth semifinal in his last eight events, was at times sublime under the lights of center court, breaking his Spanish opponent’s serve four times during the 77-minute tie, and displaying an impressive repertoire of booming forehands, angled slices, and unreachable drop shots. He struck 15 winners and committed just six unforced errors.
And even when he was not perfect, he had Lady Luck on his side.
Struggling with the wind in the fifth game of the first set, he found himself in a triple breakpoint hole. He saved all three, with the help of an accommodating net cord as his backhand hit the tape and fell on his opponent’s side. It was not the only time in the match when he benefited from the cord.
“I think it happened four times,” said Medvedev who is the first top seed to reach the final four in Dubai since Novak Djokovic in 2020. “I definitely got lucky. There was one more that touched the net for him and went on his side. Sometimes it happens. At one moment in the second set, I was like: ‘Wow, I’m almost doing it on purpose.’ But I wasn’t. Definitely a little bit lucky. I don’t remember another day where it would be four times, but that’s how tennis is sometimes. Today I got lucky. Next time it could be him.”
Medvedev, winner of 20 ATP events, is looking to defend a title for the first time in his career. He will face France’s Ugo Humbert, who defeated Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 7-6 (8), 6-3. Hurkacz enjoyed a dominant start to the match, winning 15 of 16 first-serve points and remaining unbroken throughout the first set, as Humbert struggled to find answers for an average first serve speed of 204 kph from the world No. 8.
The second set saw a change of momentum, however, as a defiant Humbert broke Hurkacz’s serve for the first time in the match to take a 3-1 lead, although the favor was immediately returned by the No. 3 seed who broke back and was eventually forced to contest his fifth tiebreak of the tournament. Twenty-five-year-old Hubert edged it 10-8.
An early break in the third set made for a much-needed one-game cushion throughout the set for Humbert, which he capitalized on, holding serve and breaking the Pole once more to seal the set 6-3. The world No. 18 can be confident against Medvedev, whom he leads 2-1 head-to-head. “It will be a great challenge against Daniil,” he said. “We played a couple of times and they were great games. I need to rest a little bit, but then I’ll be ready to go again.”
Last year’s defeated finalist Andrey Rublev, meanwhile, is also through to the final four after his quarterfinal opponent Sebastian Korda retired through injury in the second set with the score at 6-4, 4-3. Former champion Rublev, who is looking to reach a third successive final in Dubai, did not look in complete control during his early exchanges with Korda as difficult conditions affected both players.
Korda was bidding to reach the semifinals of the competition, 25 years after his father Petr last appeared in Dubai. Speaking after the match, Rublev expressed sympathy for the 23-year-old American, who was making his debut at Dubai’s ATP 500 tournament. “When it’s these kinds of conditions, the tennis is always not that beautiful,” said the No. 2 seed.
“You need to find a way. You must accept that this is the way it is today. Sometimes today I was lucky as well because of those conditions. In important moments, the ball moved because of the wind and he couldn’t play well. It helped me a lot today.
“In the end, of course, you never want to finish in that way. All I can say is I hope there is nothing serious with Sebastian and he will be ready for Indian Wells 100 percent.”
Rublev’s next hurdle meanwhile, Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, moved into the top 20 for the first time in his career with a 4-6, 1-4 victory after opponent Jiri Lehecka was forced to retire through injury in the second set.