Tennis: Medvedev in the right mood: Wimbledon '94: Ukrainian with a touch of arrogance earns fourth-round encounter with Becker. Owen Slot reports

Click to follow
The Independent Online
FOR SOMEONE who was never particularly stretched in his third-round singles match yesterday, Andrei Medvedev cut a pretty distraught figure. His head was bowed, his eyebrows would raise in mock disappointment, and his cheeks would puff at his every error - yet, while these were rare, he also showed that he has a shot to match every expression of despair.

Medvedev, the No 9 seed, wears his heart on his sleeve. Last year he played disappointingly, going out in the second round and grumbling that, with his love life in tatters, his game was bound to suffer. By the way the 19-year- old Ukrainian played yesterday, we can only assume that he and Anke Huber, the blonde German player, are now blissfully happy.

With some devastating stroke play, he dominated Richard Fromberg, his Australian opponent ranked 69th and 63 places below him; yet somehow he managed to drop the third set. At 3-3 in the fourth, he was just beginning to show signs of desperation and Fromberg had finally hit the peak of his game. That was when Huber turned up.

Medvedev immediately broke serve and cleared up the match, losing only one more game en route to a 7-6 6- 3 5-7 6-4 win. The result is a his first-ever meeting with Boris Becker, which should prove a fascinating encounter.

Medvedev had shown on his way to victory that, as a grass-court player, he has been largely underestimated. His strength is his all-round mastery of the game; he rarely makes the trip to the net - thus his label as a slower-court man - but, when faced with the volley, he certainly knows how to put it away.

The same could not be said of Fromberg, who dropped anchor at the baseline as soon as he walked on court. Medvedev must have heard the clatter, as he did his best to tempt the Australian to the net and there exposed his weakness, particularly on the backhand volley.

Medvedev, in contrast, has no palpable weakness, and this may be why he strides the court with a mixture of arrogance and nobility. No surprise, then, that he plays with a Prince. Fromberg's racket is certainly part of his success this year at Wimbledon, where he had not won a singles match in the previous three. He used to play with a Yonnex, but five weeks ago picked up an old- style Rossignol, the type which saw Mats Wilander through his best years, and found the balance in it cured a lingering shoulder problem.

The new-found comfort, mixed with confidence from two singles victories - albeit against unrated players - was not enough to rattle Medvedev yesterday. Indeed, it was not until the third set that Fromberg really got going. Until then he would shout out 'toss up' when he did not like his toss up and 'backhand volley' when he did not like his backhand volley; it was only surprising that he did not shout out 'grass' as it was the surface that was clearly the villain for him yesterday.

Medvedev started the match slowly and, though he failed to convert a break point at 5-5 in the first set, he was always ahead in the tie-break. He then broke Fromberg's serve to go 3-1 and take the second set, though he never got round to really attacking his ground strokes. In not only this did he contrast with Andre Agassi, the baseliner whose game has most recently proved a success on the All England Club grass: Medvedev took his shots late, but he nevertheless invested them with sufficient power and disguise to wear down Fromberg.

Two sets clear, Medvedev finally loosened up and started stretching his game. This, however, was where he went wrong. Despite leaning into some delicious backhand topspin passing shots, he lost hold of what had looked a faultless game plan. With victory staring at him at a break and 3-2 up in the third, he was immediately broken back and, with the subsequent loss of the set, his racket went flying. This setback, however, was the spur. That, and the arrival of Huber, and the match was his.