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Medvedev Survives Cramps to Top Popyrin, Tiafoe Next up in Miami

Top-seeded Daniil Medvedev withstood left leg cramps to fight off sometime practice partner Alexei Popyrin. EPA-EFE/JASON SZENES

By Ricky Dimon

Miami Open top seed Daniil Medvedev endured quite a scare during third-round action on Sunday, and not just because Alexei Popyrin pushed him to three sets.

A cramping spell Medvedev late in the decider almost sent the world No. 2 and title favorite packing, but he persevered through it and eventually prevailed 7-6(3), 6-7(7), 6-4 after two hours and 37 minutes.

It should have ended an hour earlier–and long before any cramps became an issue. Medvedev served for the match at 5-3 in the second set and led 40-0, giving him triple-match point. Instead, the 25-year-old Russian failed to close it out and went on to drop the set, thus being forced to play what proved to be a dramatic third.

Despite his physical issues, Medvedev managed to break midway through the decider and clutch serving saw him to the finish line even though he was struggling to move.

“It’s probably one of the sweetest victories in my career, because I was cramping like hell in the third set,” Medvedev explained. “It’s one thing when you’re cramping when you’re [ahead in the score], but I started cramping before. It was tough to think about the win in these conditions.

“At the same time, I should have won in two sets and we would not be talking about cramping. But anyway, we have the result on the board and I’m happy that I managed to go through all the difficulties of this definitely crazy match. Of course it would have been better to just win it 6-3 in the second or 6-4 when I had a triple match point. As soon as [a missed opportunity] happens, you just focus on the next one–but the only thing is it was tough to focus on the next one because I felt the cramps coming. It was not easy.”

The cramping invoked memories of Medvedev’s 2019 U.S. Open second-round match against Hugo Dellien. Medvedev somehow survived that one, as well, and ended up going all the way to the final in New York.

Frances Tiafoe rallied past Dusan Lajovic at the Miami Open. EPA-EFE/RHONA WISE

He will try to do the same–and go one step further–in Miami, continuing with Frances Tiafoe on the other side of the net in round four. All three of their previous main-tour tilts have gone Medvedev’s way, while Tiafoe prevailed back in 2015 during Nice qualifying. The Russian has taken eight of nine sets in their three most recent encounters dating back to 2019, most recently dominating 6-4, 6-1, 6-0 in the fourth round of the 2020 U.S. Open.

If Medvedev is on his second life in South Beach, Tiafoe is on his fourth. The 58th-ranked American came back from a set down in each of his first three matches against Stefano Travaglia, Dan Evans, and Dusan Lajovic.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.