Daniil Medvedev’s French Open campaign came to an end on Tuesday with an ill-judged underarm serve on match point followed by an impassioned outburst over his eagerly-awaited showdown with Stefanos Tsitsipas being played inside an empty stadium.
The colourful world number two was beaten 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 7-5 by Greek fifth seed Tsitsipas who will face Germany’s Alexander Zverev for a place in Sunday’s final.
It was only Tsitsipas’s second win over Medvedev in eight meetings and it ended in bizarre fashion.
The mercurial Russian decided to serve underarm on match point down.
But as he approached the net, hoping to finish the point with a volley, Tsitsipas merely fired a backhand winner beyond him.
“I was thinking about this during the whole match, like that maybe in the important point I could do it because my opinion was that he was quite far back in the court, so that can always work,” explained the 25-year-old.
“I didn’t see the opportunity before but I thought it’s going to be a good choice to bring him surprise. I sometimes do it on practice.
“Usually guys are a bit surprised. But it didn’t work out at all. I won’t say it was a mistake. It was something that I dared to do and maybe next time I won’t do it knowing that he’s ready.”
Tsitsipas had his own description for the ploy which backfired so badly for his opponent.
“A very millennial shot,” said the Greek, who also made the semi-finals in Paris last year where he was beaten by Novak Djokovic.
“I saw he kind of stopped. I felt like there was something coming up, so at that point I think I got prepared for it.”
Medvedev had never won a match at Roland Garros in four attempts before this year.
So winning four matches in one visit was progress even if he was dismayed that his match was selected for the penultimate evening session.
It was played inside an empty Court Philippe Chatrier as spectators were banned under a 9pm Covid-19 curfew.
This year’s French Open is staging evening sessions for the first time under a broadcast agreement with streaming giant Amazon.
“It was without a doubt the match of the day but Roland Garros preferred Amazon to people,” said Medvedev.
He compared the situation to the Formula One world championship when the 2020 Australian Grand Prix was set to take place in Melbourne even though there had been a Covid-19 outbreak in the paddock.
The race was eventually cancelled.
“Yesterday I started the third season of (Netflix documentary series) ‘Drive to Survive’ and there’s an episode called ‘Cash Is King’,” added Medvedev.
“They were in Australia ready to race, and they asked Lewis Hamilton what he thinks about racing in the conditions the world was in right now, and he said, I don’t know what we are doing here.
“And so they asked him, Why do you think they make you race? And he said, ‘Cash is King.’ It was the same here.”
Tsitsipas now has the most wins on the ATP tour this season (38) and won clay court titles at Monte Carlo and Lyon.
He will be playing in a third successive Grand Slam semi-final.
Medvedev, the 2019 US Open runner-up and this year’s Australian Open finalist, suffered his first quarter-final loss at a major.