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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday November 22 2020


When Daniil Medvedev slips into his comfort zone the tennis court is his chess board and his proving ground. On Sunday the Russian proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is one of the rising forces of the game as he toppled Dominic Thiem 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 in the Nitto ATP Finals to become the first player in the event’s history to sweep through each of the ATP’s Top 3-ranked players.

Tennis Express

The 24-year-old is already high on confidence, having won 10 consecutive matches in Paris and London (including seven against the Top 10) to finish off the 2020 season, but this victory, which Medvedev called his best ever after the match, could give him even more.

“It can give me a lot for my future career, I mean, to beat Dominic the way he played today and to manage to beat him is probably my best victory of my life,” Medvedev said in his virtual press conference after the match. “Not even talking about the title itself. I mean, to win a Masters, being undefeated, I mean, honestly I know I can play good, but I would not believe it if you would tell me this before the tournament. So a great boost of confidence for all the slams coming up and all the tournaments. Hopefully I can continue this way.”


A day after rallying back from a set and break down to defeat Rafael Nadal in three sets, Medvedev found himself in the hole again against Thiem, but he was able to navigate himself out of a tight second set by reeling off the final seven points of the second set tiebreaker.

In the third set Medvedev reversed a trend of being unable to convert break points and finally capitalized on his sixth opportunity of the set and his ninth of the match to break for a 3-2 lead in the decider.

Medvedev would make that slim margin stand up until the finish, the Russian never faced a break point in the final set and finished up the victory in two hours and 42 minutes to notch his ninth career title.

After the victory Medvedev pointed out the importance of Nikolay Davydenko’s title in 2009, the first of 12 stagings of the Nitto ATP Finals that were held in London.

“I actually didn't know, but Nikolay Davydenko commented on my match on Russian TV,” he said. “He was a commentator during this match, and then I managed to talk to him just after the match. I was so surprised and so happy because he was one of my idols when I was growing up when I was actually already starting to play tennis not so bad, he was there and he was playing unbelievable.”


Medvedev hammered a service winner on his first championship point, taking the racquet out of Thiem's hands one final time, before exchanging a warm handshake with his rival at the net.

Thiem, who drops to 25-9 on the season, worked hard to keep Medvedev off balance by feeding him a steady diet of backhand slice. It was a strategy that paid dividends, but not enough to get the 2020 US Open champion over the hump on Sunday.

He has now lost in the final at the ATP Finals in two consecutive seasons.

“I would do the same again, play a lot of slice,” Thiem said. “So that's it. That's how it is. I mean, this tournament is so tough to win or to play well. Every match is on the edge. Yesterday was on the edge. Today was on the edge. I can only say well done to him, and that's everything today.”

Medvedev, who burst onto the scene in 2019 when he reached six consecutive finals including the US Open final, says he understands how to get hot and stay hot. But next year, he hopes, he will figure out how to dial in his A game even faster. In 2020 he struggled at times to find his best tennis, but he wasn’t alone. With the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on many players’ practice and match habits, it wasn’t easy for anyone to slip into a rhythm.

By the end of 2020 it was clear, just like it was in 2019, that when Medvedev is on, he’s one of the best in the sport—no doubt about it.

“When you have this sort of confidence, you just need to know how to keep it,” he said. “And I think I do know how to do it, especially looking back at last year also where I had six finals in a row. So now the question is how to find it faster sometimes.”

 

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