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Men's Semifinal Preview: New-Look Tommy Paul Up For Medvedev Challenge
3 Min Read · March 16, 2024

Tommy Paul played throwback tennis in the quarterfinals in Indian Wells on Thursday. He charged forward with not reckless, but calculated, abandon against Casper Ruud. Lessening the Norwegian baseliner’s time and even overcoming a broken string on the final point, the 26-year-old edged a three-setter to get the “revenge” he wanted after losing a few close ones in the past to Ruud.

Watching old videos of net rushers Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Tim Henman during his stay in Indian Wells have inspired the 26-year-old. He particularly enjoys Edberg’s backhand volley.

The aggressive tactics will be put to the test against the “Octopus,” Daniil Medvedev, in their semifinal in the desert Saturday. Medvedev is a supreme counterpuncher not fazed by a target — and has prospered in Indian Wells in the past despite never hiding the fact that he can struggle with the conditions.

Another thing Paul has been doing in Indian Wells ahead of his matches? Eating Italian food.

“Lots of carbs kind of deal,” he said.

Food for thought came two months ago after a tough Australian Open loss to Miomir Kecmanovic. Paul had two match points in the fourth set, didn’t take them, and fell 6-0 in the fifth. Twelve months earlier in Melbourne, Paul produced his best Grand Slam showing by making the semifinals. So, keen to quickly regain momentum, Paul went straight to work in Los Angeles.

“I was practicing, hitting up people in LA to practice, like, the day after that match,” said Paul. “People were kind of like, why are you back on the court already? But I was super motivated to get back to work after that match. I thought I had a pretty good December of practice, and obviously it didn't really translate.

“I thought that match with Kecmanovic was a very high-level match, and I kind of just broke down there in the fifth set. To lose 6-0 in the fifth, it sucks. Especially having match points in the fourth. Sometimes it's the best thing that could happen. I came back and was really motivated to get back to work.”

His decision bore fruit.

Paul enjoyed a fine two weeks indoors in Dallas and outdoors in Delray Beach, close to his home. He beat a surging Marcos Giron in the Dallas final and made the final in Delray, ousted only by good buddy Taylor Fritz. If you think that Paul especially likes competing at home, you’d be right.

“I love, absolutely love playing on home soil, playing in the States,” said Paul, who is the fourth straight men’s home semifinalist in Tennis Paradise. “Nothing really makes me happier than playing in front of the U.S. crowd, so it's super exciting.”

The fans at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden are sure to be on his side against the World No. 4, who can sometimes get rattled by spectators. On Thursday, he was temporarily riled by Holger Rune after the Dane went at him with a backhand. Medvedev didn’t see Rune’s apology but post-match he said it was forgotten.

Paul and Medvedev tangle for the third time, with the latter prevailing 6-2, 6-1 in Beijing in September. Evidencing what Medvedev can do, he won more than half of Paul’s service points while getting broken just once himself.

The pair hit together recently.

“He seems to be playing well,” said Medvedev. “We actually practiced before the tournament, played two games, broke each other, normal for Indian Wells. Looking forward to it. We didn't have that many matches so looking forward to a tough battle.”

Medvedev, like Paul, also flourishes in the US. The 28-year-old won his lone major at the US Open in 2021 and sauntered to the final last year, both times meeting Novak Djokovic. Let’s not forget that he made the final in Indian Wells last year, too, overcoming a twisted ankle along the way against Alexander Zverev.

“Last year was crazy,” said Medvedev. “This year I feel is a little bit more calm and straightforward, so maybe I can do better than last year. Let's see.”

The player who eventually beat him in the final, Carlos Alcaraz, faces the hottest player in tennis in the other semifinal, Jannik Sinner.

Asked which of the younger guard would pick up the most majors by the time 2034 rolls around, Medvedev went with the 22-year-old Sinner and 20-year-old Alcaraz.

“Bold guess,” said Medvedev, beaten by Sinner in a heartbreaker in the Australian Open final. “At the moment you want to say Sinner, right? But Carlos is super strong also. You know what, let's put it this way, Carlos and Sinner with same number of slams in ten years. Then at the end of their career, I don't know,” he added with a smile.

In the shorter term, Paul and Medvedev sure entices.

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