Medvedev makes winning start as Khachanov, Humbert sail - GulfToday

Medvedev makes winning start as Khachanov, Humbert sail

Daniil Medvedev returns the ball to Alexander Shevchenko during their Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships match on Tuesday. Reuters

Daniil Medvedev returns the ball to Alexander Shevchenko during their Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships match on Tuesday. Reuters

Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor

Returning to action for the first time since losing the Australian Open final, defending champion Daniil Medvedev made a winning start following a 6-3, 7-5 win over Alexander Shevchenko at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday.

The top seed established dominance early on, capturing three consecutive breaks to win the opening set.

Shevchenko mounted a determined comeback effort in the second set, refusing to concede easily. He showcased his skills with a powerful forehand winner to secure a break, edging closer to forcing a decider.

However, Medvedev remained unfazed by the challenge. Showing resilience, he broke back at a crucial juncture, capitalising on Shevchenko’s frustration with an aggressive approach that led to a forehand error. Building on this momentum, Medvedev claimed three consecutive games, earning two match points after another unforced error from Shevchenko’s forehand. While Shevchenko saved one match point with a strong serve, Medvedev’s return proved too formidable, ultimately sealing the victory.

Following the Australian Open final loss to Jannik Sinner last month, the 2021 US Open champion opted to skip the Abu Dhabi and Doha tournaments to prioritise his recovery.

 “When you take a week or two off, but it’s something you planned, then it’s kind of easy tennis-wise-just a couple of points or games to get back,” said Medvedev.

 “After returning from the break, I encountered some lingering pain, hindering my training to some extent. It’s very tricky, because when you come into a match you have to forget about it and when you think about something other than tennis you are going to lose the match. I managed to do it, I didn’t feel any pain,” he added.

Earlier, fourth seed Karen Khachanov displayed remarkable resilience to overcome a strong challenge from Lucky Loser Luca Van Assche 6-2, 6-3.

The Russian, who lifted the Qatar Open title last week, broke his French rival twice to dominate the opening set.

Van Assche put up a brief fight in the second set, momentarily gaining a 3-1 lead. However, the Dubai resident, Khachanov, quickly shut down the comeback attempt. He seized control with two crucial breaks in the sixth and eighth games.

 “In the second set’s opening game, I served one double fault, let’s say not as many first serves as I was serving before. He managed to take the lead. He returned a couple of times pretty strong, pretty hard through,” said the World No. 15.

 “He played more aggressively. He really went for the shots. It can happen. He played well; I didn’t play as well from the beginning, but I’m happy. Look, I stayed calm; I stayed in the match, then managed to break him back twice and win 3-1, 6-3. That’s what truly matters in the end,” Khachanov added.

Khachanov will next face Jiri Lehecka, who fended off a stern challenge from qualifier Marton Fucsovics 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

Fifth seed Ugo Humbert turned the tables on his compatriot Gael Monfils, who had defeated him at the Qatar Open last week.

Humbert secured a hard-fought 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory against the veteran wildcard. Despite a strong start, Monfils’ performance ultimately declined due to a stomach complaint that emerged early in the second set. He briefly left the court, and while he showed admirable fighting spirit, the discomfort clearly hampered his game.

Humbert, capitalising on Monfils’ struggle, found his rhythm in the second set. He secured a crucial break in the sixth game, levelling the match.

Building on his momentum from the second set, Humbert maintained control in the third. He secured another crucial break, keeping Monfils on the backfoot. Although the veteran Frenchman displayed grit by earning two break opportunities, the World No.18 displayed his composure and defensive prowess, shutting down both attempts.

Humbert will not meet the 2017 champion Andy Murray. Another Frenchman advancing to the next round was qualifier Arthur Cazaux, who pulled off a stunning straight-sets upset against world No. 26 Lorenzo Musetti.

Building on his dominant qualifying run, Cazaux edged out the Italian in a closely contested battle, winning 6-4, 7-6 (7). Marking his first appearance in the main draw of an ATP 500 tournament, Cazaux faces a daunting task in his quest for a dream run to a quarter-final appearance: World No. 5 Andrey Rublev, who lifted the Dubai title in 2022.

Related articles