It was an amazing turnaround for Daniil Medvedev. Last year, the Russian’s maiden appearance at the ATP Finals had ended in a whimper as he went home without a win to show.
Twelve months on, Medvedev has reached the final of the elite season-ending tournament undefeated.
Medvedev, who topped Group Tokyo 1970, fought back from the brink to defeat Rafael Nadal 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the semi-final of the ATP Finals on Saturday evening.
He led the Spaniard 5-1 in the third set and had a match point one year ago, but couldn’t finish the job.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) November 22, 2020
This time it was the Spaniard who failed to close out the match. For 71 ATP matches in a row, Nadal has won after taking the first set. And the 34-year-old looked well on track as he served for the match at 5-4 in the second set.
But Medvedev dug deep for two hours and 36 minutes to earn his first victory against Nadal.
“To beat Rafa, you need everything: [a] good backhand, good forehand working [that] day,” Medvedev said. “Mentally you need to be super strong, because he’s there [for] all the points.”
In Sunday’s final, the 24-year-old Russian will take on Dominic Thiem, who defeated World No 1 Novak Djokovic in a three-set thriller earlier in the day.
US Open champion Thiem had beaten World No 2 Nadal in the group stages while Medvedev had got the better of Djokovic. Which means the two of them had beaten the top two players in the world in the week to progress to the summit clash.
Only three players had previously done that at the ATP Finals, and the last occurrence was 10 years ago, when Roger Federer did it.
“It’s great that we managed to beat two [of the] biggest players in the history of sport,” Medvedev acknowledged.
“I think it’s super for tennis. We are starting to get to take our marks. Dominic won his first Slam [and he is] playing unbelievable tennis right now. [It’s] not going to be easy. Hopefully I can play good like this. I for sure can cause him some troubles.”