By Frank Pingue
NEWYORK (Reuters) – Russian fifth seed Daniil Medvedev overcame a hostile crowd to secure a 7-6(1) 4-6 7-6(7) 6-4 win over Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in a tension-filled clash on Friday and book a spot in the last 16 of the U.S. Open.
Medvedev, who was heartily booed by the crowd inside Louis Armstrong Stadium at every opportunity after giving them the middle finger, relied on his powerful serve to put away Lopez and keep alive his hopes for a maiden Grand Slam title.
Playing for the second consecutive day after rain wiped out a slew of Wednesday matches, Medvedev later told the crowd that their negative energy is what carried him to victory.
“The energy you are giving me right now I think it will be enough for my next (four) matches. The more you do this the more I will win for you. Thank you,” Medvedev said in his on-court interview through a chorus of boos.
“I want all of you to know when you are asleep tonight I won because of you.”
The crowd turned on Medvedev in the first set when he angrily snatched a towel from a ballperson’s hands.
Medvedev got an unsportsmanlike conduct code violation for the incident and when it was announced, the 23-year-old tossed his racquet towards the centre of the court before telling the umpire he does not belong in the chair.
The crowd resumed their booing of Medvedev and as he walked back to his chair he decided to hold up his middle finger close to the side of his head.
When Medvedev’s gesture was shown on the replay screen, the crowd showered him with boos and the umpire also gave him a talking to.
“I cannot give you a code because of what I saw on the screen. I have to see it myself,” chair umpire Damien Dumusois told Medvedev.
From there, the crowd were firmly behind Lopez and used every opportunity they could to boo Medvedev, including every time he double faulted or missed a routine shot.
“I paid for it the whole match but the crowd was electric,” Medvedev told a small group of reporters when asked about the inspiration he drew from the crowd. “Even the bad energy I needed to turn it into good energy and that’s why I won.”
The Russian said he talked to Lopez at the net and to the Spaniard’s coach, Jose Clavet, in the lockerroom after that match to assure them his actions were not against them and, according to Medvedev, both understood.
Medvedev also said he was not sure whether the New York crowds would continue their booing for his next match but did say he does not expect to behave the same when he takes the court on Saturday.
“I am working on myself and hopefully I will be better next time,” said Medvedev.
Medvedev arrived at the year’s final Grand Slam with more confidence than ever after reaching the final in U.S. Open tune-up events in Washington and Montreal before securing the biggest title of his career in Cincinnati 12 days ago.
The Russian is also considered one of the favorites to keep one of the Big Three of Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer, who have combined to win each of the last 11 Grand Slams, from winning in New York.
Medvedev, who is still four wins away from a maiden Grand Slam title, welcomed the post-match boos and waved for more before addressing the crowd in what was certainly the most bizarre moment of the U.S. Open.
“First of all I can say thank you to all you guys because your energy tonight gave me the win,” Medvedev, who will face German qualifier Dominik Koepfer in the next round, said on court.
“If you were not here I would probably lose the match because I was so tired, I was cramping yesterday and it was hard for me to play.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)