Strong as a bull

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE DANIIL Medvedev displays his prowess despite nursing a sore right ankle during his match against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the quarterfinals of the Indian Wells Masters.

INDIAN WELLS (AFP) — Daniil Medvedev’s sore right ankle wasn’t a factor as he beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-3, 7-5 to reach the semifinals at Indian Wells, where Aryna Sabalenka and Frances Tiafoe raced into the final four.

Medvedev showed little ill effect from the twisted ankle he suffered in a three-set battle against Alexander Zverev a day earlier as he pushed his ATP match winning streak to 18 straight.

He booked a semifinal clash with 16th-ranked American Tiafoe, who beat 2021 Indian Wells winner Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4.

Australian Open champion Sabalenka, still building on her maiden Grand Slam title in Melbourne, overpowered Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-0 to advance at the combined WTA and ATP Masters 1000 event.

Sabalenka will face 2022 runner-up Maria Sakkari after the seventh-ranked Greek defeated two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.

Medvedev arrived in the California desert riding high after nabbing titles at Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai in three weeks.

Long a critic of the slow hard courts of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, he was through to the quarters for the first time after hanging on to beat Zverev despite rolling his ankle.

“I’m actually happy the ankle didn’t hurt much because when I warmed up it was hurting pretty bad,” Medvedev said.

“I couldn’t move well during the warmup.”

“I tried to warm it up as long as possible and take one painkiller so that probably helped and I was actually feeling better and better during the match,” added the former US Open champion, who has two days off before he takes on Tiafoe.

He raced through the opening set, a break of the Spaniard’s serve in the second game the only opening he needed as he lost just six points on his serve on the way to pocketing the set in 39 minutes.

It was a different story in the second set on a windy Stadium Court. Davidovich Fokina had a break chance in each of Medvedev’s first three service games, only for the Russian to come up with big serves to fend him off.

Davidovich Fokina was up 0-40 in the eighth game only for Medvedev to escape.

Along the way Medvedev had another fall on the court, this time scraping his hand and requiring the trainer to bandage his bloody thumb.

“Daniil has been winning many tournaments, many consecutive matches and you can see how solid he is on the court,” Davidovich Fokina said.

“It was a very unpleasant match with the wind,” he added.

“We both had break chances, he took his chance and I didn’t, but the level is there.”

Sabalenka, ranked second in the world, roared past Gauff 6-4, 6-0, turning the tables on a player who had won three of their four prior encounters.

Sabalenka was in full command of her serve, and her thunderous ground strokes left Gauff with few options.

The Belarusian fired five aces and a total of 18 winners, closing out the match without facing a breakpoint with three straight unreturnable serves.

She said she’s a different player than she was when she lost to Gauff in Toronto last year — and since she won her second title of the year at the Australian Open.

“I think I’m calmer on court, and I’m able to control my emotions, which help me to stay in the game no matter what, and just fight for every point,” Sabalenka said.

Sabalenka will face a battle-tested opponent in Sakkari, who has been taken to three sets in all four matches this week.

Tiafoe, who has reached his first Masters 1000 semi without dropping a set, made it clear he’s looking further than the final four.

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