Daniil Medvedev faced Steve Johnson in the final of the last tournament before the US Open.
After a near-perfect start to his 2018 campaign with a first career title in Sydney, Australia, Daniil Medvedev went seven months without reaching at least another semifinal.
That drought came to an end at the Winston-Salem Open, the precursor to the year’s final Grand Slam, the US Open. There, the unseeded Russian knocked off the 15th seed, Alex De Minaur—whom he had beaten in the Sydney final—in the second round on his way to the third title tilt of his career.
In the championship match, he’d face Steve Johnson, the eighth seed. Like Medvedev, the American—who’d lost three matches in a row on hard courts since capturing the title in Newport on grass—reached the final without dropping a set.
Coming into the match, Medvedev held a 3-1 advantage over Johnson in their head-to-head matchups. However, Johnson had taken the most recent meeting in Eastbourne on grass two months prior, winning in straight sets.
Through the first eight games in this match, the two players stayed on serve. In the ninth, though, two big forehand passing shots down the line set Medvedev up for the first break of the match. Clinching it to go up 5-4, Medvedev closed out the first set behind more massive serving.
In the second set, a similar pattern emerged, with Medvedev gaining an even-earlier break. Johnson was pushed to the brink serving down 3-5, but held to force the young Russian to serve for the title. Back-to-back overhead smashes at deuce and advantage secured the championship for Medvedev, bringing him back into the winners’ circle.
Medvedev became the first unseeded player to win the tournament since it’s move to Winston-Salem in 2011 from New Haven, Conn.
Johnson was trying to become the second American man to win titles on three different surfaces in one year this decade. The only other player to accomplish the feat was Sam Querrey in 2010.
The last time a Russian won two more titles in a season was five years earlier in 2013, when Mikhail Youzhny accomplished the feat.
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