SYDNEY – Daniil Medvedev clinched Russia's spot in the ATP Cup semifinals despite getting a point penalty for banging the umpire's chair with his racket during a sometimes heated win over Argentine opponent Diego Schwartzman.
Karen Khachanov gave Russia the lead when he beat Guido Pella 6-2, 7-6 (4) on Thursday, and the fifth-ranked Medvedev recovered from a shaky second set to beat Schwartzman 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. But the win will be overshadowed by Medvedev's exchange with chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani after he dropped serve in the seventh game of the second set.
Australia secured the first of the semifinal spots with a 2-1 win over Britain. Alex de Minaur and Nick Kyrgios combined to edge British pair Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury on their fifth match point in the deciding doubles match.
Kyrgios gave Australia the lead with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Cam Norrie in the opening singles but de Minaur lost to Dan Evans 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (2), meaning the result would hinge on the doubles.
Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt gambled on sending his two singles players back out for the doubles against the established British team and it paid off after a seesawing 3-6, 6-3, 18-16 victory, sealed in a gripping tiebreaker.
Medvedev went 3-0 in his singles matches as Russia swept all three group games in Perth, but had a tougher time against Schwartzman after traveling across Australia for the playoffs. Schwartzman had lost his first two singles matches in the group stage but produced the win against Croatia on Wednesday in Sydney that propelled Argentina into the quarterfinals.
He was involved in another tension-filled match less than 24 hours later.
Medvedev had set point on serve in the ninth game but was broken in a game lasting 8½ minutes. He broke back to win the set but then exchanged words with Schwartzman as both players went to their team zones at each end of the court.
Lahyani got out of his umpire's chair to get between the players, and later gave Medvedev a code violation for unsporting conduct for going on with the verbal exchange.
Seven games later, Medvedev approached the chair and asked about the code violation. He tapped the umpire's chair and was warned for it, and then hit again and got a point penalty, meaning Schwartzman started the next game with a 15-0 lead.
The Argentine held on to his break and levelled the match on his fifth set point.
Medvedev, who lost an almost five-hour U.S. Open final to Nadal last year and led the tour in 2019 with 59 match wins, regained his composure in the third set, cut down his errors and got the vital break in the eighth game.
The Russians will next meet the winner of Friday's quarterfinal between Serbia and Canada.
Australia will meet either Spain or Belgium.
A euphoric Kyrgios lifted de Minaur over his shoulder and carried him off the court after the doubles win over Britain, and then told the crowd he would celebrate with a red wine.
Fair enough. De Minaur spent five hours on court in back-to-back matches for Australia, saving four match points before losing his singles to Evans in a 3-hour, 23-minute encounter, and then saving four match points before winning the deciding doubles in a super tiebreaker.
Australia's unbeaten run through the new team tournament has come at a time when the country needs some good news amid catastrophic wildfires that have claimed at least 26 lives since September, killed millions of animals and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.
At Ken Rosewall Arena at Sydney's Olympic Park, it was like a soccer stadium full of noise and chanting for the home team.
“It was unreal. You know, the adrenaline has kind of worn off and I'm exhausted,” Kyrgios said in a post-match press conference. ““But it was awesome. It was honestly — today was one of the best moments in my career, definitely.”
Hewitt's hunch on his doubles combination paid off, with de Minaur soaking up the pressure on the same court where he won his first ATP title last year.
“Tell you what, after I got called up for the doubles, I had already forgotten about the singles,” de Minaur said. “And with the doubles win, I mean, it's one of the best days of my life. I'm not going to lie.”
Australia needed five match points in the match tiebreaker to clinch it, Britain had four chances.
The one that Murray won't forget in a long time was at 11-10, when he had an almost open court in front of him but somehow sent a backhand long in response to a reflex shot from Kyrgios.
“I missed that shot basically on top of the net, which was ridiculous,” Murray said. “That will hurt. Should have never missed that shot, and I'll probably never miss it again in my career. But today I missed it, and that cost us.”