Gone from Australia but not forgotten, Novak Djokovic is still doing his bit to dictate the destination of the title he was not allowed to defend.
Daniil Medvedev admitted after he faced the prospect of defeat at two sets down, and then later at match point down, against Felix Auger-Aliassime on Wednesday that only one thought came into his head.
‘What would Novak do?,’ he said in his post-match interview on court with Jim Courier.
And like Djokovic had done so often, Medvedev summoned up astonishing reserves of spirit and quality to win a classic quarter-final 6-7 (4-7) 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 6-4.
Medvedev’s mention of Djokovic – ‘I don’t know if people will like it,’ he pre-warned them with a smile – got the Rod Laver Arena crowd both laughing and booing.
Daniil Medvedev invoked a strong response as he trolled the Australian Open crowd with his mention of Novak
Novak Djokovic was sensationally deported from Australia after failing to provide proof of vaccination
Yet the champion, who couldn’t go for his 10th title in Melbourne after being deported following the visa row that dominated the pre-tournament, has had an important influence on Medvedev’s attitude to ‘fight to the last point’.
‘I have to take what I can from the best,’ the Russian No.2 seed explained later.
‘Rafa (Nadal), Roger (Federer), they also have done it so many times but I’ve played more times with Novak.
‘Some matches I watched win him the grand slams, being two sets to love down with (Stefanos) Tsitsipas and (Lorenzo) Musetti in Roland Garros.
‘During all the matches, as soon as I was done a little bit, I was like, ‘Just be like Novak. Show him that you are better’.
‘It won’t work every time, because again, he (Auger-Aliassime) had a match point.’
Tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg tweeted: ‘Folks, this was a definite, excellent troll by Medvedev, who is a king of the art form. See how he burst into little mischievous giggles as soon as he said it?
‘It was probably true, sure, but he knew what he was doing by saying it in that moment, and he loved it.’
Asked about the crowd’s reaction to his Djokovic reference, Medvedev added: ‘They booed. Again, as a person, I’m trying to be honest of course. Sometimes I cannot talk about everything, because we live in the time where you cannot say anything, everything you think.
‘But this, I mean, their reaction, I try to be honest with them, to tell them how I felt during the match. Yeah, I like honesty.’
Daniil Medvedev came from two sets down to beat Felix Auger Aliassime at Australian Open
Auger Aliassime was broken early in the fifth set and had no response as Medvedev won 6-2
Medevdev, who reckoned he had simply not known what to do when the young Canadian’s forehand tracers zipped past him, admitted: ‘He was playing insane, like better than I have ever seen him play. It was unreal.
‘So, third set, I had zero confidence in myself and in the outcome of the match.’
Medvedev, who broke through for his maiden grand slam title win when he upset Djokovic at last year’s US Open, is now inspired by a new goal.
For he’s now just two wins away from becoming the first man in the Open era to win his second grand slam in the next major tournament after his first.
It’s a statistic he wasn’t previously aware of, but Medvedev says it will now serve as extra motivation to win the title.
‘Somebody should have done it, no? Actually, I didn’t know this stat … it’s a great challenge … It will be history,’ he said.
Auger-Aliassime was shattered by the result but, as a clear star of the future at just 21, he’ll be back – and he felt he could be proud of his performance.
‘I wish I could go back and change it, but I can’t,’ he shrugged.
‘I have accepted it already. I’m going to leave Australia with my head held high, and I’m going to go into the rest of the season knowing I can play well against the best players in the world.’
Next up, Medvedev will face Tsitsipas in Friday’s semis after the Greek star demolished young Italian sensation Jannik Sinner 6-3 6-4 6-2 in little more than two hours.