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Medvedev in 5, finally, advances to 4th round in Australia

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Russia's Daniil Medvedev gestures after defeating Serbia's Filip Krajinovic in their third round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

MELBOURNE – Daniil Medvedev finally worked out how to a win a five-setter. All by himself.

The fourth-seeded Medvedev was 0-6 in Grand Slam matches that went to five sets, and his Australian Open third-round match against No. 28-seeded Filip Krajinovic looked like it was going all the way.

After some angry outbursts from an increasingly animated and chatty Medvedev directed at his box in an otherwise empty Rod Laver Arena — fans have been banned as a COVID-19 precaution — his coach, Gilles Cervara, got up and left.

“He said just before leaving that he’s sure I’m going to win the match. He’s going to leave me alone to be more calm," Medvedev explained in his on-court TV interview after Saturday's 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, 6-0 win. “It was a good thing to do. Luckily I won."

Some pundits, including John McEnroe, are tipping the 25-year-old Russian to make his major breakthrough in Australia. Medvedev, on a 17-match winning streak that includes titles at the 2020 season-ending ATP Finals, said while that's nice to hear, he's got a long way to go.

He'll have to face unseeded American Mackenzie McDonald in the next round. After that could be a quarterfinal against No. 7 Andrey Rublev, who helped him win the ATP Cup title for Russia last week. No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal, a 20-time major winner, is also in his half of the draw.

Nadal extended his winning streak against fellow left-handers to 16 with a 7-5, 6-2, 7-5 victory over No. 69-ranked Cameron Norrie, reaching the fourth round at Melbourne Park for the 14th time in 16 trips.

He is chasing a men’s record 21st major title but entered the tournament with back stiffness and without any competitive matches in 2021.

“Today is better, yeah,” Nadal said of his back soreness. “First day I feel an improvement, and that’s the most important thing for me today.”

He hasn't dropped a set in three matches that, he said, "I hope will help me for what’s coming.”

In his immediate future is No. 16 Fabio Fognini, who had a straight-set win over Australia’s last hope in the men’s draw, 21st-seeded Alex de Minaur.

Medvedev had been bothered by a problem with his upper left leg and had a medical timeout for treatment late in the fourth set.

When he fell behind 5-2 in the fourth, Medvedev shouted, “I never saw something like this!”

He returned to better much play in the deciding set, smacking an inside-out forehand winner to a corner to close an 18-stroke exchange and break to go up 2-0.

He didn't drop another game as he seized the momentum back from Krajinovic, who was previously 4-1 in matches that went the full five sets.

“In contrary with previous matches where I could get tight . . . here I was really calm to finish the match," Medvedev said. “Really happy I got the five-set win."

Medvedev, the U.S. Open finalist last year, will next play McDonald, a player he compared with Roger Federer in style. McDonald beat Lloyd Harris in straight sets to equal his best Grand Slam result by reaching the round of 16 at the Australian Open.

Seventh-seeded Rublev had a 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 win over Feliciano Lopez, ending the 39-year-old Spaniard's 75th consecutive major tournament.

The Russian men had one loss on Day 6, with No. 19 Karen Khachanov beaten by No. 9 Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (1), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5). Berrettini will next play fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 winner over Mikael Ymer of Sweden.

Two women with titles already this year are through to the Round of 16.

Top-ranked Ash Barty, who won the Yarra Valley Classic last week for a title in her first tournament back from almost 12 months on the sidelines, beat Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia 6-2, 6-4.

Barty said while it felt strange not having fans in the stadium for the first time in her career at the highest level, there were some things she didn't mind.

“It feels a little bit like practice," she said, "so we’re pretty used to it.”

Barty next faces American Shelby Rogers, who beat No. 21 Anett Kontaveit 6-4, 6-3.

Elise Mertens, a 2018 Australian Open semifinalist who won the Gippsland Trophy tuneup tournament last week, had a 6-2, 6-1 victory over 11th-seeded Belinda Bencic. She'll take a seven-match winning streak into her next match against Karolina Muchova in the fourth round.

No. 25-seeded Muchova rallied from a 5-0 second-set deficit in near silence, which only made the turnaround seem more bizarre as she beat No. 6 Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 7-5.

There were no fans in the stands due to the start of a five-day lockdown imposed by the Victoria state government in response to a COVID-19 outbreak at a quarantine hotel. Up to 30,000 spectators daily — 50% of capacity — had been admitted on previous days.

“I was actually getting happy yesterday morning that I’m finally going to play on a bigger court and there’s going to be a crowd," Muchova said. “”But unlucky now for five days here. Hopefully then it’s going to be back again.”

No. 61-ranked Jessica Pegula had a 6-2, 6-1 win over Kristina Mladenovic and will next play No. 5-seeded Elina Svitolina, who won the last nine games to beat Yulia Putintseva 6-4,6-0.

No. 22 Jennifer Brady dropped only four games to advance to a fourth-round match against No. 28 Donna Vekic, who saved a match point and beat Kaia Kanepi 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-4.

“I was really brave in some moments,” Vekic said. “I was like, ‘OK, how am I a match point down? I don’t want it to be over.’”

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