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US Open: Russian Medvedev can continue ‘villain to hero’ transformation as he faces revived Dimitrov

US Open: Russian Medvedev can continue ‘villain to hero’ transformation as he faces revived Dimitrov Daniil Medvedev and Grigor Dimitrov are both on paths to redemption at the US Open, but only one can seal a spot in the final when they meet in New York on Friday.

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Russia’s Medvedev, 23, has broken new ground on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows, going deeper than he has ever done before at a Grand Slam.

He entered the tournament in red-hot form, reaching successive finals in August before picking up the Cincinnati Masters title on the eve of the US Open – propelling him to a career-high number five in the world.

If there was anyone to break the stranglehold at Grand Slams of the ‘Big Three’ of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, it felt like Medvedev was the man.

His form in New York so far has borne that out, progressing as he has done to a maiden Grand Slam semifinal.

But it has not been plain sailing, as the 6ft 6in Russian has battled his rivals, injury and the crowd.

His running battle with the notoriously feisty New York crowd began in his third-round match with Feliciano Lopez, during which he snapped at a ball boy before .

He lapped up the jeers in his post-match interview – thanking the crowd for giving him “the energy to win” – and again played the troll card after .

Medvedev himself hinted that it was more stagecraft than genuine sourness toward the crowd, and waged peace rather than war with New Yorkers after his four-set quarterfinal win against Stan Wawrinka, saying: “ Sorry guys, and thank you.”

Of more concern to the big-serving Moscow-born player will be the injuries he has contended with throughout his two weeks at Flushing Meadows.

He was forced to require heavy strapping to his left thigh for part of the Wawrinka match, and has admitted to taking pain killers to numb the various ailments that have inevitably caught up with him after playing so much tennis in recent months.

Still, the big Russian’s serve has been a major weapon thus far, firing down 78 aces – the second-highest tally of the tournament – as well as hitting 52 forehand winners.

His double-fault tally has admittedly been high (38), but that indicates Medvedev’s willingness to go all-out on his serve. 

Across the net on Friday at Arthur Ashe Stadium will be Dimitrov, the Bulgarian enjoying a resurgence in New York that not many would have foreseen heading into the tournament.

The unseeded 28-year-old has always had talent, but has so often failed to achieve his undeniable potential.

He appeared set to be a serious Grand Slam contender when reaching the world’s top three in 2017, but then saw a fall almost as rapid as his rise, plunging out of the top 10 to as low as world number 78 heading onto the US Open this year.

But he has found his rhythm, and spectacularly so, reaching the last four in New York by beating Swiss great Roger Federer in a five-set quarterfinal thriller. 

Friday night will also be his third experience of a Grand Slam semifinal, after losing outings in the Australian Open in 2017 and Wimbledon in 2014.

So often the Bulgarian has made the headlines for his off-court courtship, with high-profile former relationships with Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova several years ago, as well as with pop star Nicole Scherzinger.

The man himself admitted after his win over Federer that “the past six, seven months have been pretty rough for me…”

“There were so many things I had to adjust in such a small but big period of time. Next thing you know, you’re almost end of the year, you have a result like that. It’s pretty special to me.”

Dimitrov’s form at the US Open indicates a man free from distraction – and one who is on a potential path to redemption.

Medvedev, in his own way, is seeking to complete a reversal of fortunes on Friday night, from villain to hero in the space of less than a fortnight.

Two intriguing stories, but only one spot in the final.      

Head-to-head record

Medvedev and Dimitrov have met twice before, earning one win apiece. The Russian beat his rival in straight sets in the round of 16 at the Washington Open in 2017. In the same year, Dimitrov bested the younger man on the grass of The Queen’s Club in London, winning in three sets in the quarterfinal.

Friday‘s action is set to get underway at Arthur Ashe Stadium at 4pm local time.

The winner of the match will play either second seed Rafael Nadal or Italian 24th seed Matteo Berrettini in the final.   

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