Medvedev seemed unleashed down the stretch: brimming with energy and feeding off the crowd. When his comeback was complete, he was asked on court by the commentator Jim Courier how he had turned the match around.
“I didn’t really know what to do,” he answered. “So I don’t know if people will like it but I told myself, ‘What would Novak do?’”
There was a chorus of boos from the largely Australian crowd at the mention of Djokovic, the unvaccinated Serbian star who was deported from the country on the eve of the tournament after his visa was revoked and his appeal denied.
Medvedev is not usually affected by crowd disapproval — see the 2019 U.S. Open — but he took diplomatic cover this time: quickly mentioning “Rafa” and “Roger” as potential influences, too, and getting a cheer for his efforts.
But Djokovic, popular or not, is the champion Medvedev has been channeling in Melbourne.
“During all the matches, as soon as I was down a little bit, I was like, ‘Just be like Novak. Show him that you are better,’” he said referring to his opposition.
So far, that has been just good enough for Medvedev, the highest men’s seed in the tournament. Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open champion, would have been seeded No. 1. Though his absence has affected the competitive balance, it has not kept this tournament from providing plenty of entertainment and a worthy final four.