As much as Daniil Medvedev cared about taking over the No. 1 ranking in men’s tennis, he knew there were more serious matters happening Thursday involving his home nation of Russia.
A loss by Novak Djokovic at the Dubai Championships meant that the Serbian player would move down to No. 2 and Medvedev was assured of becoming the 27th man to hold the top spot in the ATP – even before Medvedev reached the semi-finals by winning his match at the Mexico Open.
It all happened on the same day that Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine that began with air and missile strikes on military facilities before troops and tanks rolled across borders from the north, east and south.
“Watching the news from home, waking up here in Mexico, was not easy,” Medvedev said after beating Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2, 6-3. “By being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world. We play in so many different countries; I’ve been in so many countries as a junior and as a pro. It’s just not easy to hear all this news. ... I’m all for peace.”
Medvedev noted that the pair that won the doubles title at the Marseille Open last week included one Russian (Andrey Rublev) and one Ukrainian (Denys Molchanov), saying: “This was amazing, because people need to stay together.”
Reflecting on the day, Medvedev added: “In these moments, you understand that tennis sometimes is not that important. ... It was not easy to play and I’m happy that I managed to win the match, but it was bit of a roller-coaster day for me.”
The 26-year-old Medvedev, who won last year’s U.S. Open for his first Grand Slam title, said he received congratulations from other players about his new ranking, which will become official on Monday.
“Of course, I’m happy to reach No. 1,” Medvedev said. “It was my goal since I was young.”
He will face Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals of the hard-court tournament. Medvedev lost to Nadal in the Australian Open final in January after blowing a two-set lead, a year after losing the final there against Djokovic.
“Always playing against the Big Three or Big Four, its an honour, and a great challenge. In Australia [against Nadal], I could have won, but the result in the end was that I lost,” Medvedev said. “It was a tough loss, but that’s how sport is.”
Nadal beat Tommy Paul 6-0, 7-6 (5) to improve his record to 13-0 on the season. Nadal is a three-time Acapulco champion where he has a 23-2 record.
“[Medvedev] is a tough opponent, the No. 1 in the world and we all saw in Australia how hard is to beat him”, Nadal said. “I’m aware that I need to be at 100 per cent to have a chance, but I’m looking forward to it, it will be demanding, but I hope to be ready”.
Nadal also expressed his thoughts on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“I can give an opinion as a citizen,” Nadal said. “I don’t want to talk about who is to blame, but for me its unbelievable that there are wars at this moment. I can’t comprehend it and I wish for it to end now, because at the end of the day I think its devastating and incomprehensible news.”
In other results, Stefanos Tsitsipas also moved on to the semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Marcos Giron. The third-seeded Tsitsipas will next play either Peter Gojowczyk or Cameron Norrie.
Defending champion Alexander Zverev was kicked out of the tournament after violently hitting the chair umpire’s stand with his racket following a loss in doubles.
Zverev was fined $40,000 and will forfeit more than $30,000 in prize money and all rankings points from the Mexican Open. In addition to those penalties, the ATP announced Thursday it would undertake “a further review of the incident.”