Wednesday, 25 November, 2020

ATP Finals: Nadal's wait rolls on as Medvedev tees up Thiem showdown

Russia's Daniil Medvedev reacts during his semi-final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal at the O2 Lond Russia's Daniil Medvedev reacts during his semi-final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal at the O2 Lond
Cary Erickson | 22 November, 2020, 16:27

Djokovic fought off four match points during an epic second set breaker. He's got the experience of having almost won it past year, and this time in the final, he comes in as a Slam champion.

Sunday's championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals is a massive deal and it will also reveal who among Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev is most likely to threaten Novak Djokovic's hold on No. 1 in the future.

Djokovic pulled out his own big serves in the important moments to reach the semifinals for the ninth time, notably in the tiebreaker when he recovered from a 2-0 deficit. He's a streaky player who's now on a roll, which means he'll be a tough out Sunday. "He just crushed the ball and everything went in".

The Austrian, who lost last year's final at the O2 Arena to Stefanos Tsitsipas, produced a scrappy game when serving to stay in the second set but saved two break points against the 17-time Grand Slam champion. His serve was rolling while Nadal was on his heels. It is a bad shame that one player will not be remembered for their efforts this week but that makes for what should be an awe-inspiring contest between rather differently brilliant players.

Neither have won the event before, so a first-time victor of the end-of-season finale is guaranteed. This year's group is quite a quartet: They won the past 10 Grand Slam titles and the last nine Masters 1000 trophies.

Thiem confidently served out the first set and Djokovic looked hurried and harassed, as he faced another break point in the fifth game of the second set, but this time his opponent netted a forehand.

In Saturday's rematch of February's Australian Open final, in which Djokovic beat Thiem in five sets, there were plenty of long baseline exchanges on the indoor hard court - where things were quiet because spectators were banned due to the coronavirus pandemic - and few break chances for either player.

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.

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Interestingly, this was Thiem's 300th tour-level victory.

But Djokovic saved that initial chance with a 127 miles per hour service victor. Thiem's next opportunity to win came at 7-6, but he double-faulted.

As for whether the Association of Tennis Professionals should bring in a code on domestic violence, like the ones used in American leagues such as the NFL and the NBA, Djokovic said "Obviously I'm not supporting any kind of violence".

The third was at 9-8, when he pushed a down-the-line forehand wide.

"I felt really unusual until 5-4 for him in the second set, when he was serving for the match", Medvedev said.

The Austrian third seed's 7-5, 6-7 (10/12), 7-6 (7/5) win ended Djokovic's hopes of equalling Roger Federer's record of six titles at the elite eight-man event. Andy Murray is the other. "I for sure can cause him some troubles".

During the current ATP tournament, Medvedev has been victorious in every one of his matches.