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Daniil Medvedev: The Russian Player Who Trolled the U.S. Open

Daniil Medvedev surged into the top five in the world rankings this month, playing excellent tennis with an unflappable calm he has often lacked in his career.

As he made a run of three consecutive finals, he said he was happy “I didn’t get crazy, even for one second, on the court.”

Then came Friday night at the United States Open.

In the first set of his third-round match against Feliciano López, Medvedev, 23, incensed the crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium by angrily snatching a towel out of the hands of a ball man and tossing it on the court, for which he earned a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct.

To show what he thought of the fans’ disapproval, Medvedev held up his middle finger next to his head, out of view of the officials, but in sight of much of the crowd. Then the gesture was shown on video screens inside the stadium.

The chair umpire saw the gesture only on replay and therefore could not penalize Medvedev. But the public rendered a decisive verdict.

Neutral spectators suddenly became die-hard López fans. He received raucous support for the remainder of the match, even as crowds dwindled in the late hours.

Medvedev won anyway, 7-6 (1), 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4, and then the real show began.

Medvedev opened his long arms wide and waved them toward his body, encouraging the spectators to continue to drench him in boos. He then sarcastically thanked the crowd in an on-court interview.

“First of all I can say thank you all, guys, because your energy tonight gave me the win,” Medvedev said. “Because if you were not here, guys, I would probably lose the match, because I was so tired. I was cramping yesterday; it was so tough for me to play. So I want all of you to know, when you sleep tonight: I won because of you.”

Medvedev stepped back after his first answer to offer the crowd some applause of his own, and to revel in the serenade.

“Again, the only thing I can say is the energy you’re giving me right now, guys, I think it will be enough for my five next matches,” he said. “The more you will do this, the more I will win — for you guys.”

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Speaking to reporters later, Medvedev kept it up without regrets.

”The crowd was electric — even the bad energy,” he said. “I needed to turn it into good energy, and that’s why I won.” (As he played, his sports psychologist sat in a front row box taking notes and wearing a shirt that said “Good Vibes.”)

On Saturday, the tournament announced that Medvedev was fined $9,000: $5,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct and $4,000 for a visible obscenity.

Medvedev will play Dominik Köpfer in the next round on Sunday, and could face top-seeded Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals. Medvedev beat Djokovic on his way to the title in Cincinnati two weeks ago.

Djokovic also said he gained inspiration from a less-than-supportive fan Friday night. As crowds gathered to assess the readiness of his injured shoulder, Djokovic stopped his practice to confront a heckler behind the court.

After he overcame his physical struggles — and disruptive spectators in Arthur Ashe Stadium — to beat Denis Kudla in straight sets, Djokovic said the heckler “definitely helped” him.

“He did me a favor,” Djokovic said. “Big favor.”

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