ATP Finals – final preview: Dominic Thiem v Daniil Medvedev
The world’s top four players competed in the ATP Finals semi-finals, but it is third and fourth ranked players who will compete for the title on Sunday as London says farewell to the season ending event.
On Saturday, both Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev came through three-set epics to beat Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal respectively, to book their places in the final match of the 2020 season. Thiem will be playing in the championship match for the second consecutive year, having fallen last time around to Stefanos Tsitsipas in three sets. Medvedev will be playing in his first final, having lost all three of his round-robin matches in his tournament debut last year.
Dominic Thiem v Daniil Medvedev
Thiem’s route to the final:
RR: Won v Stefanos Tsitsipas, 7-6(5) 4-6 6-3
RR: Won v Rafael Nadal, 7-6(7) 7-6(4)
RR: Lost v Andrey Rublev, 2-6 5-7
SF: Won v Novak Djokovic, 7-5 6-7(10) 7-6(5)
Medvedev’s route to the final:
RR: Won v Alexander Zverev, 6-3 6-4
RR: Won v Novak Djokovic, 6-3 6-3
RR: Won v Diego Schwartzman, 6-3 6-3
SF: Won v Rafael Nadal, 3-6 7-6(4) 6-3
Thiem won his semi-final, against one of the all-time great returners, without dropping serving, and only faced three break points. He had a solid first serve percentage of 68% and managed to win 82% of them. He will need to produce similar numbers to succeed against another great returner in Medvedev.
Whilst the first semi-final featured just one break of serve all match, the second was a more up-and-down affair. After losing a deceptively tight first set, Medvedev built up a 4-1 lead in the second before Nadal won four games on the trot to give himself the opportunity to serve out the match. The Russian, however, played a perfect return game, breaking the Spaniard to love and forcing a tiebreak which he won to take the match into a third. Nadal, looking a little fatigued, could not quite keep up with Medvedev’s pace and power and the world No 4 will carry a nine-match win streak into the final.
Thiem and Medvedev have met four times before and the Austrian leads their series 3-1. Most recently, they played in the semi-finals of the US Open, with Thiem winning in straight (albeit two very tight) sets, 6-2 7-6(7) 7-6(5). On their only meeting on indoor hard courts, Thiem won 7-6(2) in the third, back in 2018 in St Petersburg.
Both men will head into the final with sky-high confidence having both achieved the incredible feat of beating both Nadal and Djokovic this week. They are the first players to achieve this feat at the ATP Finals since Roger Federer a whole decade ago and it is the first time that two players have reached the final having both beaten the top two seeds to get there.
Thiem has had a breakthrough year, winning his first Grand Slam title in New York, and he could consolidate his position as part of the undisputed third best player in the world with a win on Sunday. Medvedev has had a far more subdued season but he may have peaked at just the right time. He won the Paris Masters at the start of the month for his first title of the season and he has been in breath-taking form so far this week. It is also worth noting that half of the Russians eight career titles have come on indoor hard courts.
With both Nadal and Djokovic falling on the same day there is a real sense that the tide could (finally) be shifting in men’s tennis, and both of these men will aspire to fill those storied shoes. There is a great chance to lay down a marker on Sunday, to send a signal of intent heading into 2021, but one of the men is in slightly better form and, without a major title to his name, he perhaps will crave this one more.
Prediction: Medvedev in 3
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