Daniil Medvedev was relieved to secure one of the “sweetest victories” of his career after battling through cramp to beat Alexei Popyrin and reach the fourth round of the Miami Open.
The top seed looked set for a routine win as he led 5-3 and 40-0 in the second set, but Popyrin battled back from the brink and took the match to a decider.
Medvedev was clearly struggling physically in the heat as the match went on, hobbling and wincing between points, and requesting electrolytes from the physio to help with cramp.
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However, he came through 7-6(3), 6-7(7), 6-4 in over two-and-a-half hours to advance to the next round.
"I think winning a Grand Slam final in three sets, straight sets, doesn't feel the way I felt after the match point today,” said Medvedev.
It’s probably one of the sweetest victories in my career, because I was cramping like hell in the third set. It’s one thing when you’re cramping when you’re ahead, 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."
World No 2 Medvedev had looked in control of the match as he led 4-1 and then 5-3 in the second set, only to let his advantage slip away.
"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,” he said.
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 only thing I was thinking about is not to fall down, because if I fall down, I don't think I would be able to get up.
"There were some moments where I just wanted to lay down and say, ‘Okay, it's over.’ So I knew that that's the thing I couldn't accept myself to do.
"At the end it was just that I almost couldn't walk. My legs were not following me. I couldn't bend it or make it straight, I had to keep the same posture. I couldn't make a step more than, I don't know, 10 centimetres."
Medvedev will next face unseeded American Frances Tiafoe, who overcame 16th seed Dusan Lajovic 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 to secure his third consecutive victory from a set down this week.
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Popyrin, who has been a regular practice partner with Medvedev over the last few months, admits he could have done more to take advantage of his opponent’s physical issues.
"When I saw him cramping a little bit, he was struggling a bit on the game that he broke me...Thinking back on it now and after talking with my team about it, I could have put a slider wide, a kick serve wide and made him run to the other corner and that would have been sufficient," he said.
But I tried to go for the serve that was working for me throughout the whole match. I think in these situations I've got to be a little bit smarter and read the situation, but that just comes with experience.
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