There has been nothing to question about Daniil Medvedev’s game in recent weeks, but uncertainty around the health of his right ankle surrounded his BNP Paribas Open quarter-final clash with Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Wednesday. After rolling his ankle in a thrilling fourth-round victory against Alexander Zverev on Tuesday, Medvedev said he was having trouble walking but that he hoped to play in the quarters.
In a 6-3, 7-5 victory against the 23rd seed — his 18th straight match win — Medvedev moved well in a fast start to alleviate any concerns. He added a new worry late in the second set when another fall required treatment on a bloody right thumb, but after escaping 0/40 at 3-4, the four-time ATP Masters 1000 champion did just enough in windy conditions to finish the job in straight sets.
“I’m actually happy the ankle didn’t hurt much because when I warmed up, it was hurting pretty bad,” Medvedev said post-match. “I knew I was going to play, I knew I was going to try. But I couldn’t move well on the warm-up. I tried to warm it up as long as possible, took one painkiller so that probably helped. I was actually feeling better and better during the match.
“The match was absolutely crazy. I could talk about this for 15 minutes, but just really happy to go through such a tough match with such tough conditions with the wind.”
It was business as usual in the first set once he opened up a 3-0 lead and nearly broke again for 4-0, with his patient and prodding baseline game frustrating Davidovich Fokina on the Indian Wells stadium court.
Set two was a much tighter affair as the Spaniard upped his aggression and earned his first break points, one in each of his first three return games. Medvedev found big serves each time to escape and threatened in a five-deuce game at 3-3, only for his fall to stop his momentum.
“I absolutely cut it open,” he said of his bloody thumb. “It was like fully open. I never cut myself with a knife even like this because I don’t cook much.”
That moment had the making of a turning point, as Davidovich Fokina rattled off six straight points and played some of his best first-strike tennis to bring up 0/40 on return. But after a second visit from the physio to have his thumb taped, Medvedev regrouped in the nick of time to see out the win with more baseline brilliance.
Medvedev is now 36-5 in sets during his winning run, which began with a comeback win against Davidovich Fokina in Rotterdam last month. He is seeking his fourth straight tour-level title after triumphs in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai.
The 27-year-old’s extended run has lifted him from outside the Top 10 last month up to No. 5 this week in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, though he cannot move any higher even with a title in Indian Wells. Medvedev, who was playing in his first Indian Wells quarter-final, has reached at least that stage at all six hard-court ATP Masters 1000s.
He can now enjoy two days off before he faces Frances Tiafoe in Saturday’s semi-finals. Medvedev owns a 4-0 ATP Head2Head record against the American, who has not lost a set in reaching the last four, including a 6-4, 6-4 quarter-final win against Cameron Norrie earlier on Wednesday.
“He’s playing great,” Medvedev said of the home favourite. “Frances is a very pumped-up, fiery player, so he can beat anyone on a good day. I’m sure he can beat Novak, Rafa. He actually did beat Rafa in the US Open, which is huge. For sure I need to try my best to keep this head-to-head at zero. That’s never easy and I just have to show my best tennis and try to beat such a great opponent.”
Davidovich Fokina was playing in his third Masters 1000 quarter-final and his first outside of Monte-Carlo, where he reached the 2021 quarters and the 2022 final. His run has lifted him three places to No. 25 this week in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, setting him up for a new career high on Monday.