Australian Open: I could've played better, says Medvedev after final defeat to Djokovic

By Sports Desk February 21, 2021

Daniil Medvedev rued a below-par performance after his Australian Open final loss to Novak Djokovic.

In his second grand slam decider, Medvedev was well beaten 7-5 6-2 6-2 by Djokovic on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday, seeing his 20-match winning streak ended.

Medvedev had his chances against the world number one, but Djokovic stepped up in key moments to win a record-extending ninth Australian Open title.

The Russian fourth seed felt his performance was average in the final as he mixed 24 winners with 30 unforced errors.

"I don't like to lose matches. Doesn't matter if it's a first round or a final of a grand slam. Of course, it's just that feeling that you're closer to hold the trophy than when you lose the first round," Medvedev told a news conference.

"Talking about the match, it's tough, just when you lost to reconsider straightaway. But I feel like it's the kind of matches I won throughout this tournament that he won today.

" I was there in the first set, I was up a break in the second, but in the end I lost in three sets where I didn't play bad but I didn't play my best level. Probably he made his game that good today that I couldn't stay at my best level.

"Yeah, I obviously thought about [Andrey] Rublev and [Stefanos] Tsitsipas, both amazing top-10 players, and I won with a similar score where they were playing good, but I felt like I was better. So today was the case for Novak.

"I cannot say much better than this. He was better than me today. I could have done things for sure better today, but I didn't manage to. That's why I don't have the trophy."

Medvedev recovered from 3-0 down to draw level in the first set before being broken in the 12th game, while he gave up a break lead in the second.

The 25-year-old was unsure whether his performance was down to a bad day, or Djokovic's display.

"That's where it's tough to say because I don't know 100 per cent. I feel like I for sure could have played better. Especially looking at the matches where I played him," Medvedev said.

"At the same time there is always a question maybe he was not that good the other matches I played him because it's always day by day. You know the question is how did he manage to win here nine times out of nine? Probably all the nine times he was better than his opponent.

"I don't have an answer to this question. He definitely was good. I definitely could have done better. But even if I would have done better, doesn't mean that the score would be different.

"Today we have this score. I'm the loser; he's the winner. That's the point."

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    Bouchard took the first set, but Bencic came from behind to advance with a 6-7 (7-9) 6-1 6-4 victory on Tuesday.

    Eighth seed Jelena Ostapenko, runner-up in the Korea Open, suffered a premature exit as Aliaksandra Sasnovich consigned the former French Open champion to a 6-2 6-2 defeat.

    Emma Raducanu also went out in straight sets, with Daria Kasatkina beating the 2021 US Open champion 7-5 6-4.

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    Veronika Kudermetova, the second seed, breezed past Varvara Gracheva with a commanding 6-1 6-0 win.

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  • 'The gap is obvious' – Van Bronckhorst vows to learn after Liverpool defeat 'The gap is obvious' – Van Bronckhorst vows to learn after Liverpool defeat

    Giovanni van Bronckhorst says the gap in quality between Rangers and Liverpool was "obvious", though he vowed the Scottish Premiership side will learn from a comfortable defeat to the Reds.

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    Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah struck in either half at Anfield as Rangers failed to find the net in their first three Champions League games for the first time ever.

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    Rangers will look to make amends against Liverpool in the return fixture next Wednesday, with Van Bronckhorst's side trailing third-place Ajax by four points in a battle for Europa League qualification.

  • Alexander-Arnold offers a reminder of where his qualities lie as Liverpool dispatch Rangers Alexander-Arnold offers a reminder of where his qualities lie as Liverpool dispatch Rangers

    Gary Neville's in-depth analysis of Trent Alexander-Arnold on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football gained plenty of traction.

    It might have been mistaken for criticism, had the former Manchester United defender not put so much onus on making it clear just how highly he rates Liverpool's right-back.

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    Work to do...

    Before the game, the 23-year-old – nurtured under Jurgen Klopp since making his debut in October 2016 – had created 467 chances, provided 60 assists and scored 14 goals in all competitions. The numbers, as Neville said, are "absolutely obscene".

    Of course, it is not Alexander-Arnold's attacking that has ever been cast into doubt, but his work going the other way. Indeed, with Southgate a more conservative and, arguably, pragmatic, manager than Klopp, it is perhaps no real surprise why many see Alexander-Arnold's defending as the factor holding him back on the international stage.

    Alexander-Arnold hardly helped his cause when the Premier League returned following the international break. He was arguably at least partly at fault for two of Leandro Trossard's three goals in Liverpool's 3-3 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

    It is hard to argue a case, too, for his defending when stacked up against his competitors (primarily Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Reece James) for a place in England's side. 

    He had been dribbled past on 218 occasions in his 236 Liverpool games before the Rangers fixture, a figure way clear of Trippier's 157, for example. 

    Prior to Tuesday's game, Alexander-Arnold's duel success rate (47.3) failed to match the other three, who vary between 56.4 (James) and 58.8 (Trippier). He does boast a better tackle success percentage of 60.6, though it only ranks third out of the four (above Trippier).

    But Alexander-Arnold, it must be remembered, has played a pivotal role in a side that has won every trophy available to them over the course of Klopp's tenure, as well as reaching two Champions League finals they lost.

    Liverpool did not get where they are by leaking goals, and Alexander-Arnold has helped the Reds to 80 clean sheets (following Tuesday's match), a figure bettered only by Walker (91) since the youngster made his senior debut.

    Unique selling point...

    Perhaps, though, there is simply too much scrutiny on the defensive side of his game after all? Perhaps, despite Neville's warning of a "juncture" in Alexander-Arnold's career, it is time to simply enjoy the player he is, not what he should be or could be, especially when he is so far from what would be considered peak age.

    It was Alexander-Arnold who, after an early barrage from the hosts at Anfield following a raucous welcome for two of Britain's biggest clubs, delivered a moment of quality few other players – never mind defenders, albeit Trippier is no stranger to a fine free-kick – are capable of on such a reliable basis.

    When he stepped up to take a free-kick, just under 25 yards out from Rangers' goal, in the seventh minute, there was an air of expectation. Seconds later, the ball was nestling right in the left-hand corner, giving Allan McGregor – who went on to keep the scoreline respectable for the visitors – no chance. 

    Curling in a sublime strike, his sixth direct free-kick goal for Liverpool, more than any other player in the Reds squad since the start of the 2016-17 season, might not answer questions about his defending, but was a timely reminder of the talent at Alexander-Arnold's disposal. It was his second Champions League goal, his first at Anfield in almost five years.

    He was a menace throughout a first half Liverpool dominated with ease, teeing up a chance for Virgil van Dijk to head in a second with a sumptuous inswinging corner in the 28th minute and keeping fellow Liverpool academy graduate Ryan Kent quiet.

    One loose pass into midfield did see him exposed just after the half-hour, though Rangers never looked likely to punish the mistake.

    Seven minutes into the second half, Alexander-Arnold was on hand to recover a loose ball and feed Jordan Henderson, whose raking pass found Luis Diaz. The Colombian was bundled over in the box and Mohamed Salah made no mistake from the penalty spot. Game over, with Alexander-Arnold having played his part in both goals.

    Liverpool could have made it more comfortable, Darwin Nunez particularly unfortunate, but bar a late run from Junior Fashion Sakala, Alexander-Arnold was not tested.

    Alexander-Arnold finished with the most touches (96), a game-high 40 passes in the opposition half and joint-most tackles (four). A stoppage-time booking before he made way to a standing ovation from the Liverpool faithful was the only blemish on an otherwise spotless copybook.

    He might not be perfect, and will face harder opponents than Rangers, especially when Liverpool visit the Etihad Stadium later this month, but is exceptional at what he excels at.

    That, surely, is enough for now.

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