Australian Open: Daniil Medvedev escapes; men’s, women’s semifinals set

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Daniil Medvedev rallied from two sets down and saved a match point before beating No. 9 Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-7 (4), 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-4 on Wednesday to move into the Australian Open semifinals.

The U.S. Open champion’s bid to become the first man in the Open era to win his second Grand Slam title in the next major tournament is still on track after the 4-hour, 42-minute comeback victory.

Medvedev will play Friday against French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rematch of last year’s semifinals at Melbourne Park. Medvedev won at the same stage last year but lost the final to Novak Djokovic.

Tsitsipas beat No. 11 Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Facing defeat Wednesday, Medvedev got a break. A six-minute delay in the third-set tiebreaker for the roof on Rod Laver Arena to be closed during a rain shower swung the momentum mostly his way.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Auger-Aliassime won only one of the last six points in the tiebreaker after dominating for the first two sets. He missed a match point on Medvedev’s serve in the 10th game of the fourth set.

Medvedev saved it with a big first serve out wide and then held with an overhead winner.

“I was not playing my best, and Felix was playing unbelievable, serving unbelievable — he was all over me,” Medvedev said. “I didn’t know what to do so I (asked) myself, ‘What would Novak do?’

“And I just thought, OK, I’m going to make him work. If he wants to win it, he has to … fight to the last point.”

The 25-year-old Russian broke Auger-Aliassime’s serve in the next game game and held to level the match at two-sets all. He then got another service break when the 21-year-old Canadian double-faulted in the third game of the deciding set.

It still wasn’t over yet.

Serving for the match, Medvedev had to save two break points before closing it out about an hour after saving a match point.

Auger-Aliassime had lost all three previous matches against the second-ranked Medvedev, including a straight-set loss in the U.S. Open semifinals last September.

But he was the aggressor in the first two sets, keeping Medvedev off balance with his forehand, up-tempo game and athleticism.

It forced Medvedev to play more inside the baseline to claw his way back in the third and fourth sets.

Medvedev had his upper left leg taped and was visibly frustrated by people in the crowd talking and making noise between his first and second serves.

He uncharacteristically served double-faults to drop serve in the 11th game and, after breaking back when Auger-Aliassime was serving for the first set, twice more in the tiebreaker.

Medvedev didn’t get a look at a break point in the second or third sets, but managed to convert when he got the chances late.

He’s been effectively the No. 1 seed since Djokovic, the defending champion, was deported on the eve of the tournament for failing to meet Australia’s strict COVID-19 vaccination rules.

Another who could benefit from Djokovic’s absence is Rafael Nadal.

The Spaniard, seeking a men’s record 21st major title to break a tie with Djokovic and Roger Federer, will play Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini in the other semifinal match.

The temperature dropped for the men’s quarterfinals from the highs of the afternoon, when Iga Swiatek beat 36-year-old Kaia Kanepi 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3, with the payoff being a spot in the semifinals against Danielle Collins.

“This match was crazy,” the 20-year-old 2020 French Open champion said. “First set I think my mistake was I had so many break points, I felt like I missed my chances. In the second set … I felt like she’s playing so fast that I can’t be tight. I had to finish my forehands.”

The temperature reached 97 degrees on Day 10, continuing a week of hot weather.

Collins won the opening match before the heat peaked, swinging it in her favor with a key service break in the final game of the opening set on her way to a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Alize Cornet.

The 115th-ranked Kanepi was coming off a three-set win over second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka and took the match to Swiatek, who saved nine set points before losing the first set.

Swiatek rallied in the second and third sets. And, after being broken while serving for the match the first time, she eventually clinched it on Kanepi’s serve.

After the first three quarterfinals were decided in straight sets — Ash Barty beat Jessica Pegula and Madison Keys beat Barbora Krejcikova on Tuesday — the last one went all the way.

As she left the court, Swiatek wrote on the TV camera lens: “Thank you for the support. # Tired.”

Collins’ win means there are two Americans in the semifinals. Keys, the 2017 U.S. Open runner-up, will play Wimbledon champion Barty.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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