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Daniil Medvedev accused of 'tactical' move amid umpire drama in Australian Open final

The World No.3 appeared to realise he had to halt some of Jannik Sinner's momentum.

Daniil Medvedev.
Daniil Medvedev had a run-in with the chair umpire during the Australian Open final. Image: Channel 9/Getty

As if losing a second Australian Open final from two-sets up isn't bad enough, Daniil Medvedev was also accused of trying to flout the rules in Sunday night's final. Medvedev appeared to be on the verge of claiming his second grand slam title when he won the first two sets against Jannik Sinner in the men's final.

But young Italian Sinner produced an extraordinary comeback to prevail 3-6 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-3 as Medvedev ran out of gas. It was a repeat of the 2022 final at Melbourne Park in which Medvedev coughed up a two-set lead to lose to Rafa Nadal.

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The World No.3 spent a whopping 24 hours and 17 minutes on court throughout the tournament, and it proved telling against the much fresher Sinner - who hadn't dropped a set until the semi-final against Novak Djokovic. With Sinner working his way back into Sunday's final, Medvedev appeared to realise that he had to do something to halt the momentum.

He took an off-court bathroom break at the end of the third set, but it did little to affect his opponent. In controversial scenes, Medvedev then asked the umpire if he could take another off-court break at the end of the fourth set - but she refused.

Aurelie Tourte informed Medvedev that he'd already used his one extended bathroom break, with rules stipulating that players can only take one per match. Players are allowed to take shorter toilet breaks at the end of each set, but time limits have been brought in in recent years.

It led to Medvedev threatening to take his clothes off on court. "I'm gonna change on the court," he said. "I'm gonna change on the court."

He eventually decided to head to the bathroom to try and make it back in the allowable time, but he ran over the limit. Tourte therefore had to issue a time violation warning when the fifth set began.

Daniil Medvedev, pictured here in the Australian Open final.
Daniil Medvedev was prevented from taking a second extended break by the chair umpire. (Photo by MARTIN KEEP/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

Daniil Medvedev accused of taking 'tactical' break

In commentary for Stan Sport, Aussie great Wally Masur accused Medvedev of trying to take a 'tactical' break to further disrupt Sinner's comeback. "He can't possibly change again after one set? That's tactical," Masur said. "It's 28 degrees down here. Yes, he's sweating slightly, but that's tactical."

In his defence, Medvedev did appear to be dripping with sweat as the fourth set concluded. "Can I change on the clock?" he asked the umpire. "I'm going to change on the clock. No, no, no – I don't have time!"

Nick Kyrgios said on Eurosport: "I mean he's very sweaty. I think it's appropriate that if he is just changing his shorts, he does that in his own privacy."

Bathroom breaks remain a controversial topic in the tennis world, with players accused of taking them to disrupt their opponents' momentum numerous times over the years. Play has been known to come to a pause for 20 minutes or more at the end of a set, but new rules around time limits have put a stop to that.

Whether Medvedev's break was tactical or not remains to be seen, but it certainly didn't work. Sinner completed his extraordinary comeback to leave Medvedev heartbroken.

The Russian has now lost five grand slam finals in six appearances, with his long major title coming at the US Open in 2021. "It always hurts to lose in the final but probably being in the final is better than losing before," he said in a classy runner-up speech.

"I always want to win but I guess I have to try harder next time but I'm proud of myself. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it today but I'm going to try to make it next time."

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