Unwell Jannik Sinner knocked out of Wimbledon in four-hour marathon as Daniil Medvedev remains ruthless

An unwell Jannik Sinner was knocked out of Wimbledon on Tuesday  (Getty Images)
An unwell Jannik Sinner was knocked out of Wimbledon on Tuesday (Getty Images)

Rule out Daniil Medvedev at your peril. That was the message sent to the rest of the draw by the freakishly outlandish but effective world number five, who ripped up the formbook on quarter-finals day at Wimbledon. Sure, Jannik Sinner was under the weather, far from oneself, but the level throughout remained high and it was Medvedev who held his nerve.

For two intoxicating sets of full-throttle baseline tennis, there was little to choose between these two. But then it was the Italian– six years younger at 22 – whose health deteriorated on tennis’ biggest stage. The world No 1 left the court for 10 minutes but this was no injury. As a doctor checked his pulse and blood pressure, Sinner looked a man absolutely spent, his face white and movement unusually dawdle.

But he returned, a second wave came and as the adrenaline kicked in, the momentum swung back and forth. Sinner, commendably, stretched it to five sets. But after a sludging contest of exactly four hours, it was Medvedev who emerged victorious, sealing a berth in the Wimbledon semi-finals – with a 6-7(7), 6-4, 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3 win – for the second straight year where, again, he will meet Carlos Alcaraz.

“I felt at one moment he wasn’t feeling good but I knew it could get away,” Medvedev said on-court.

“It was actually very tough. One moment I can feel he doesn’t move that well but it’s tricky, you want to play more points to make him suffer but then he goes full power. In a way I’d rather not have this situation. But everything is well when it ends well.”

Medvedev led the head-to-head 6-5 coming into this one but, astonishingly, Sinner had won their past five meetings – including January’s terrific Australian Open final, when Sinner claimed his first Grand Slam with a thrilling win from two sets to love down. In that match, the Italian looked broken, mouthing “Sono morto” (I’m dead) to his box, before somehow launching a stirring fightback. At SW19, he looked altogether more weary.

Their last meeting, in the humidity of Miami in March, saw Medvedev salvage just three games but in a humid greenhouse altogether different in scene and sound under the Centre Court roof, this contest was nip-and-tuck from the start.

Both of these gangly competitors have a strikingly similar style: flat and consistently deep off both wings, a slice almost seemed like a mini-surrender. Both move exquisitely well too, with Sinner sliding from side-to-side while Medvedev’s lengthy stride means he makes up good ground. The net-result, in the first set, were some breathtakingly brutal exchanges.

By the inevitable tie-break, the longest rally had been 33 shots – after which Sinner bent over at the net, the first indication of debility – but the breaker was a combination of endurance and focus. Two lengthy rallies resulted straight after in a Medvedev double fault and, pivotally, one of those came at set point to his opponent. The Russian cracked, earlier spurning a set point at 6-5 with a wildly hit forehand.

Daniil Medvedev was ruthless on Centre Court (Getty Images)
Daniil Medvedev was ruthless on Centre Court (Getty Images)
The Russian was the underdog but emerged victorious (Getty Images)
The Russian was the underdog but emerged victorious (Getty Images)

It is those game-changing, title-deciding points that are undoubtedly Medvedev’s achilles heel. A man with one Grand Slam to his name, it should arguably be three, having twice blown a two-set lead in the final in Melbourne.

Yet amid torrential rain outside – you could barely hear the contact of ball-on-racket – Medvedev earned the first break of the match at the start of the second, through nothing more than a few loose shots from Sinner. Or so we thought. While Medvedev remained in the zone, Sinner wavered, unusually erratic on the forehand and suddenly he was walking gingerly. The fifth seed capitalised, customarily serving his way to all-square.

Now, Medvedev was bludgeoning the ball, particularly off his fearsome, laser-sharp backhand. It was triggering a worn-down Sinner into some unusual errors; a shanked forehand, a drop-shot into the net and a forehand whipped below the tape gifted another break to Medvedev at the start of the third.

Bang on cue Sinner called for the physio and, with his head in his hands, he left the court alongside a doctor. More than 11 minutes passed before he returned to huge applause.

He still looked unwell and was now looking to finish the points quickly, resorting regularly to drop-shots completely at odds with his big-hitting groundstrokes. But Medvedev – ruthless at the best at times, never mind when at a physical advantage – refused to relent. While he sprung into his shots, Sinner covered the court between points slowly, attempting to steady his breathing.

Sinner left the court for more than 10 minutes at the start of the third set (Getty Images)
Sinner left the court for more than 10 minutes at the start of the third set (Getty Images)
Medvedev is through to the semi-finals for the second straight year (Getty Images)
Medvedev is through to the semi-finals for the second straight year (Getty Images)

But then, a spark. Medvedev had a horror show when serving for the set and, a couple of games later, the Russian had to save two set points against him. Sinner had the set on his racket with a backhand pass but blasted into the net.

Would he live to regret it? So it seemed. Another tie-break was forced and, this time, Medvedev did not falter. Instead, he doubled down on his groundstrokes, refusing to give an inch, and with an ace out wide took a vital lead.

Back came Sinner though, refusing to give in and sealing an early break in the fourth with a pinpoint drop-shot. This strange match took another turn as Medvedev was the one who suddenly gave in, serving like a doubles player out wide, and accepting the inevitability of a fifth set with a limp drop shot into the net.

To the decider and Medvedev sealed the decisive break in the fourth game, fist-pumping to his box in a rare show of emotion. It was back to the extended back-and-forth of the first two hours; a change in pattern that favoured the healthier man. Serving for the match at 5-3, would Medvedev seal it or stumble? The former. To love, with one final backhand caressed down-the-line.

And it was the marmite figure of Medvedev who took the acclaim of the Centre Court crowd. He’ll face defending champion Alcaraz in the semis on Friday, a repeat of last year when the Spaniard smashed him off the court. Yet it’s worth remembering the Russian beat Alcaraz against the grain in the last four of the US Open last year. Expect another grueling encounter.