Daniil Medvedev did not travel an easy path to the biggest title of his career at the ATP Finals. He beat world No. 3 Dominic Thiem for the championship after earlier getting past No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Rafael Nadal.
By switching tactics and coming back for a 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 victory over US Open champion Thiem in Sunday’s final, world No. 4 Medvedev became the first player to defeat each of the men ranked No. 1 to No. 3 at the season-ending championship — and only the fourth to do so at any ATP Tour event since 1990.
“Means a lot,” Medvedev said. “Shows what I’m capable of when I’m playing good, when I’m feeling good mentally, physically. So I know what I’m capable of. Just need to produce it more and more.”
The win against Thiem on an indoor hard court in an arena without spectators, who were absent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, followed those against Djokovic in the round-robin and Nadal in Saturday’s semi-finals.
Medvedev went 5-0 in all, quite a turnaround from a year ago, when he was 0-3 at the ATP Finals. The tournament now ends its 12-year stay in London and heads to Turin, Italy, next year.
Medvedev closed the year by going 10-0 this month, including seven wins against members of the top 10. He had zero victories over top-10 opponents over the preceding 12 months.
He called the run “a great boost of confidence for all the Slams coming up and all the tournaments.”
“Hopefully, I can continue this way,” the 24-year-old Russian said.
Thiem’s defense and power from the baseline put him on top early, and strong serving at key moments allowed him to save the first eight break points he faced.
“He was crushing the ball like [there] was no tomorrow,” Medvedev said.
However, Medvedev finally converted on his sixth break point of the third set by sneaking forward behind a return, making a forehand-volley winner and going up 3-2.
Thiem credited Medvedev with playing an “unreal game.”
That was enough, because Medvedev never faced a break point the rest of the way and he finished with 12 aces.
A key shift in the match came in the second-set tiebreaker, thanks to a change in style from Medvedev.
Thiem went up 2-0, before Medvedev used an element of surprise by rushing to the net more often than usual — behind serves and returns — and reeling off the next seven points.
That Medvedev began moving forward behind returns “was surprising” and “very gutsy,” said Thiem, who had won three of the pair’s previous four matches.
In the second set, Thiem had break points to take a 4-3 edge, but he badly missed a short shot on one. He put his hands on his hips.
“Maybe the match would have had a different outcome if I convert that break point,” Thiem said.
He stumbled and tumbled to the court in the next game, but appeared to be OK. Still, Medvedev said he sensed that Thiem was fading down the stretch.
“To make Dominic tired in a three-set match is a great achievement,” Medvedev said.
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