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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, November 20, 2021


Defending champion Daniil Medvedev rolled through five games in a row dismissing Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-2 to reach his second straight ATP Finals title match.

Photo credit: Julian Finney/Getty

A determined Daniil Medvedev showed committed closing kick going the distance in Turin this week.

Today, Medvedev was in no mood for complexity.

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The reigning champion charged through five straight games dismissing Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-2 to reach his second straight ATP Finals title match in Turin.

It is Medvedev’s ninth straight ATP Finals victory—the longest tournament win streak since Novak Djokovic won 15 in a row from 2012-2015 in London—and propels the second-ranked Russian into his seventh final of the season.

The US Open champion will face either world No. 1 Djokovic in a rematch of the Flushing Meadows final or third-ranked Alexander Zverev in tomorrow’s final.

“In a way we all beat each other: I beat Novak in US Open and he beat me in Paris in Australian Open and he beat Sasha two times in Grand Slams but lost Olympic Games,” Medvedev told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj afterward. “So it’s not like the match tomorrow is gonna decide something really crucial and it’s gonna be the end of the line.

“But of course every final you play is really important. I had a few against Novak, a few against Sasha so I’m looking forward to their match first and then my match tomorrow.”

Today, Australian Open finalist Medvedev relied on his commanding serve, comprehensive court coverage and crunching ground game to dissect ATP Finals debutant Ruud. Medvedev dropped only 10 points on serve total—five on first serve and five on second serve—did not face a break point and won a vast majority of the longer points repelling Ruud to raise his 2021 record to 58-12.

Typecast as a clay-courter, Ruud reinforced his hard-court credentials—and well-earned reputation as a fighter—this week rallying from a set down to defeat both British alternate Cameron Norrie and fifth-ranked Russian Andrey Rublev. Ruud showed his explosiveness and a biting serve bigger than his 6' frame suggests: he hit three of his 14 aces vs. Rublev in the decisive tiebreaker. 

Ruud had a phenemonal 55-win season becoming the first Scandanavian since Robin Soderling in 2009 to reach the tournament's final four. Yet realist Ruud knows his 0-8 record vs. Top 4-ranked oppoents is a clear signal he's got work to do, primarily on the backhand wing. The good news is Ruud showed solid net skills on a fast court and if he can learn to use his speed in forward fashion rather than primarily lateral it will add another dimension.

"I played the No. 1 and 2 guys in the world this week. They've beaten me fairly comfortably," Ruud said. "That makes me want to seek revenge and become a better player for the next year, all the years coming."

Medvedev had won five consecutive three-setters at the season-ending event but made it clear he had no intention of going the distance today.

Tennis Express

Physical rallies, including a 32-shot exchange in the third game, opened the match. Ruud bumped a backhand pass into net to face break point. Medvedev launched himself into a leaping backhand reminiscent of the young Marcelo Rios then rapped a forehand crosscourt breaking for 2-1.

The eighth seed saved a pair of break points denying Medvedev a double break by holding for 2-3.

Playing with kinesiology tape snaking his right forearm—a testament to three straight three-set wins this week—Medvedev knocked off three volleys and banged a backhand into the corner for 5-3. Medvedev was six of eight at net in the first set.

The reigning champion won 14 of 16 first-serve points and did not face a break point charging through the opening set in 41 minutes. Ruud’s signature shot, the inside-out forehand, was not impacting the Russian’s rock-solid two-handed backhand as Medvedev was winning more of the longer exchanges.

Credit Ruud for switching up his tactics, but Medvedev is a superior hard-court player with more firepower on serve and it showed.

"It’s a Masters so you need to be focused every match; you play tough opponents," Medvedev said. "I managed to be just a little more crucial on deciding points today. I could have been even more because when you lose some break points you have to do better.

"Tactically it was a really tough match. I feel like Casper is one of the smartest players on tour before the hard court swing where nobody actually thought about him, nobody believed in him. Yet here’s here in the semis. My first ATP finals I was 0-3 in the group so big respect to him and I’m really happy that today I managed to be on top."

San Diego champion Ruud had rallied from a set down in successive wins over Cameron Norrie and Andrey Rublev to reach the final four. Coming back from a set down against the US Open champion would be a major mountain to scale.

Trying to shorten points, Ruud successfully showed the serve-and-volley and swooped in to knock off a smash holding for a 2-1 second-set lead.

The Russian’s wide wingspan and assertive court positioning squeezed a couple of forehand errors from Ruud in the fifth game for two more break points. Ruud saved both but Medvedev raced up to a dropper and poked a volley down the line for a third break point. The Russian bled another forehand error from Ruud breaking for 3-2 after 66 minutes.

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Squeezing open court space to the size of a parking space, an oppressive Medvedev gave Ruud little room to operate.

Ruud had a wide open swath of space crosscourt but spooked by the 6’6” Russian’s movement he jerked a crosscourt forehand wide for break point. Medvedev twice landed drives on the baseline in the ensuing rally when Ruud challenge a shot he believed landed long nullifying a flick lob. Replay showed Medvedev’s drive lanced the line as he broke again for snatching his fourth straight game for 5-2.

The defending champion finished in style serving-and-volleying and snapping off a high backhand volley down the line sealing 79-minute win on a five-game run.


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