Daniil Medvedev’s feisty interaction with the boisterous New York crowd at Flushing Meadows was one of the highlights of his thrilling run to the U.S. Open final last year.
But the rangy Russian is missing the “adrenaline” of the fans this year.
Third seed Medvedev motored into the third round with a 6-3 6-2 6-4 win over Australia’s Christopher O’Connell on Thursday in front of empty stands under a closed roof at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
The subdued atmosphere of the evening match was a far cry from the drama that engulfed Medvedev last year when he was jeered relentlessly at Armstrong after showing the crowd his middle finger during the third round.
He later apologised to fans and won their hearts during his brave five-set loss to Rafa Nadal here in the final.
“It’s actually sad to play a night session with zero people in the stands,’’ the 24-year-old Medvedev said in his on-court interview.
“That’s why you realise how important fans are, no matter if they’re against you or for you. It’s adrenaline.
“Sometimes you make amazing points and it’s just your coach applauding you.
“So it’s a bit sad but that’s the world we’re living in right now so hopefully it will change soon.’’
Medvedev will have no chance to draw energy from any spectators at this bio-secure tournament but so far has hardly wanted for a pep-up.
He has dropped neither set nor serve and offered only two break points against 116th-ranked O’Connell, a 26-year-old who cleaned boats in Sydney to make ends meet while injuries hampered his tennis aspirations.
Despite a humble back-story, O’Connell is no slouch and notched an unrivalled 82 wins in 2019, soaring from outside the world’s top 1,000 to the cusp of the top 100.
He took a lengthy medical time-out to have a trainer work on an apparent back strain at 4-1 in the second set against Medvedev but rallied to give the Russian a proper work-out in the third.
Medvedev rose to the challenge, showcasing the court-craft and speed that very few 6-ft 6-in players (1.98m) can hope for, to hold off the Australian and seal the win with a booming serve.
Medvedev next faces J.J. Wolf for a place in the last 16 and admitted the lack of fans could work for him against the young up-and-comer.
“Yeah, playing an American in the USA without the crowd is an advantage,’’ he said. (Reuters/NAN)