Medvedev Unleashes the Shot Heard Round the Desert

Photo by Getty

Bill Simons

Indian Wells

KVITOVA DOWNS PEGULA IN EPIC BATTLE: Petra Kvitova’s eyes were bulging wide. At last she sensed her opportunity. This was her moment. The two-time Wimbledon champion blasted a fierce cross-court volley to down the pugnacious, increasingly beloved American, Jessie Pegula, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(11) to reach the Indian Wells quarterfinals for the first time in her career.

In an epic mid-tournament match, Pegula, who’s ranked No. 3, and the No. 15 Kvitova captivated fans with a classic righty vs. lefty, consistency vs. power battle.

It wasn’t easy. It took 1:34. After the two traded the first two sets, Pegula gained match points. But Kvitova’s forehand is a considerable weapon until it misfires. After a 16-minute tiebreak (in which Pegula squandered four match points) Kvitova prevailed on her fourth match point and will next play last year’s finalist, Maria Sakkari.

STARS AND STRIPES FLY IN THE DESERT: If Tommy Paul had been able to convert any of his six match points against Felix Auger-Aliassime it would have been the first time three Americans would have reached the Indian Wells quarterfinals since Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and James Blake in 2004. Today, Taylor Fritz scored another easy victory, downing Marton Fucksovics, and Frances Tiafoe reached his first Indian Wells quarterfinal by prevailing over the Chilean qualifier Alejandro Tabilo. So Fritz and Tiafoe are the first two Americans to reach the quarters since Agassi and Mardy Fish in 2008.

MEDVEDEV ROLLS ANKLE THEN ROLLS ON: Last year at the French Open, Alexander Zverev suffered a horrific ankle injury. Today Daniil Medvedev, who was playing Zverev, painfully rolled his ankle. It looked awful. He thought he couldn’t go on. But the Russian managed to come back. He played clutch, winning 15 of the 17 break points he faced. 

Eventually he took advantage of yet another crunch-time double fault by Zverev to pull out a 6-7, 7-6, 7-5 win and reach his first Indian Wells quarterfinal.

SHOTS THAT SAVE OUR LIVES: Against Medvedev, Zverev hit an overhead that was bound to be a winner. But Daniil leapt high and blasted a slice overhead winner past the stunned German. It was great, but not as spectacular as Roger Federer’s leaping overhead off of an Andy Roddick overhead in Basel in 2002. 

Medvedev said he recalled Federer’s overhead, which he conceded was more spectacular. But he added that his shot was in a tighter situation. “I got lucky…the timing, the position of the ball was perfect…I said to myself, ‘Just hit it full power, there is no other choice.’…It was an amazing shot…It’s great to have such shots in such important moments. That saves your life.”

COCOMANIA SURGES: A day after her 19th birthday, Coco Gauff came from behind to down the streaking Swedish qualifier Rebecca Peterson and achieve her best Indian Wells result. After being gutted in the second set, Gauff tapped into her athleticism, great defense and increasing patience. She hit deeper and won the last four points of the match to win 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, and the Stadium 2 crowd sang, “Happy Birthday!” 

Coco has reached the quarters in four of her last five tourneys and set the record for most career wins by a teen at a WTA Masters 1000 tourney. She next plays No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka. She told the Tennis Channel that her youngest brother Cameron is the best athlete in their family.

SOUNDS LIKE A PLAN: When asked what she would do if she had a free day away from tennis, Aryna Sabalenka replied, “Beach in the morning, shopping in the afternoon and a great dinner at night.” She later told us the beach she’d go to would be Miami Beach, then she’d shop at the Bal Harbour Shops nearby, and then find “some sushi place.” 

PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE: German Angie Kerber reached the 2019 finals. But her joy hardly compared with the ecstasy of having her first child. She wrote to her newborn, ”Having you Liana with us is the most beautiful and overwhelming feeling we could have ever imagined.”

THUS SPOKE MEDVEDEV: The Russian barked at the ump about the court, saying, “It’s a disgrace! It’s not a hard court!” He told the media, “On court I get crazy.” Then he added, “I love the tournament, I just don’t love the court.”

QUARTERBACKS: Patrick Mahomes, arguably the best quarterback in the world, is a friend of Nebraska native Jack Sock, and he came by Indian Wells the other day…Ben Shelton was a quarterback in high school and so is Coco Gauff’s younger brother.

When New England Patriot quarterback Mac Jones was at Alabama, his nickname was McEnroe. His tennis-playing dad was No. 322 in the world.

In a Pepsi commercial, the fabled quarterback Joe Montana defiantly challenged Coke spokesperson Chris Evert to a live taste test. Evert shrugged off the challenge, saying, “Good-bye, Pepsi!”…Inside Tennis had a cover featuring Joe Montana and his coach, Bill Walsh…Speaking of football coaches, former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz said that he didn’t realize how fast his Heisman Trophy winner, running back Rocket Ismail, was until he saw Ismail “playing doubles with himself.” 

AGE APPROPRIATE: Aryna Sabalenka, 24, who just won the Aussie Open, said she was glad she didn’t win her first Slam when she was really young. Many women who win Slams early soon face issues. Emma Raducanu, Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu, Sofia Kenin and Jelena Ostapenko all come to mind. Aryna said, “It’s really tough…they just have to go through it. Nothing is going to be easy…They have to go through some tough periods to understand that, no matter what, they have to keep fighting. Nobody is going to give it to them easily.”

THE NEW COACH IN TOWN: After court announcer Andrew Krasny unsuccessfully gave Iga Swiatek tips on how to hit a souvenir ball up to the second deck, he gushed, “I can’t believe I’m coaching the No. 1 tennis player in the world. This is beyond my dreams.”

SAY IT ISN’T SO: Taylor Fritz said, “I really don’t like watching tennis too much.”

Also reporting Vinay Venkatesh



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