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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday November 21, 2020


What a difference a year makes. Last year Daniil Medvedev was boxed up and shipped out early on his ATP Finals debut, going 0-3. In 2020, the Russian has returned with a vengeance, and is now one victory from claiming the title.

Tennis Express

It will be Medvedev and Dominic Thiem in the final at the Nitto ATP Finals in London, after the 24-year-old Russian rallied past Rafael Nadal 3-6 7-6(4) 6-3 on Saturday night to earn his first win over the Spaniard in four tries.

With the win Medvedev snaps a run of 71 consecutive wins by Nadal after he had won the first set. His last loss after claiming the opening set was last year at Acapulco, when he fell to Nick Kyrgios.

Last year during round robin play at the ATP Finals in London Medvedev blew a 5-1 lead and failed to convert a match point in the third set against Nadal before falling 6-7(3) 6-3 6-7(4), but on Saturday the Russian made the bold chess moves when they were necessary and he pushed past Nadal even after the Spaniard served for the match at 5-4 in the second set.

That break for 5-5 in the middle set was critical in more ways than one. Not only did it keep Medvedev in the match, it also served as the key that unlocked his best tennis.

“All the match till 5-4 I felt like I was doing some good things but not enough, and I didn't feel inside myself, inside my mind, my game, the link between the shots, which I started feeling after I broke him,” Medvedev told reporters.

Nadal was quick to push credit over to Medvedev.

“At the end of the set I was playing a little bit better than him, and then in the 5-4 I think he played a good game and I didn't,” he said in his post-match virtual press conference. “I played a bad game. That's it, no? But I had a big opportunity. I lost a big opportunity.

“Well done to him. He's playing great. I wish him all the best.”

Medvedev broke for 4-3 in the final set when he snuck into the net, knocked off a backhand volley and then finished the point with a putaway smash.

Nadal had an easy volley to close the game but left it in no-man’s land where Medvedev could have a clean look at the forehand pass.

Nadal missed another easy backhand from the mid-court that gave Medvedev his third break point of the game. It was one he would be sure to connect on.

The Russian says he’s thrilled to have defeated both Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the same tournament, and he believes he can do some damage in the final despite the fact that he was beaten by the Austrian in straight sets at the US Open final this September.

“I think it's super for tennis,” he said. “We are starting to get to take our marks. Dominic won his first slam, playing unbelievable tennis right now. Not gonna be easy. Hopefully I can play good like this. I for sure can cause him some troubles."

Notes/ Numbers:

Medvedev owns a 1-3 lifetime record against Thiem, but the pair have split their last two meetings... Nadal still has yet to claim the title at the ATP Finals. The spaniard reached the final in 2010 and 2013 and has reached the semis in six of his ten appearances. ... There will be a first-time winner at the ATP Finals for the fifth consecutive year. Andy Murray (2016), Grigor Dimitrov (2017), Alexander Zverev (2018) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (2019) are the last four winners. ... Medvedev finished with 42 winners against 29 unforced errors, including 18 forehand winners against nine forehand unforced. Nadal finished with 22 winners against 30 unforced, including 13 forehand winners against 14 unforced forehand errors.

 

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