The way the season has been trending, Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic would have been a fitting conclusion to the ATP calendar year. But like he did in Tokyo, Alexander Zverev spoiled the party.
Djokovic had some chances late in the first set, then was finally able to breakthrough in the second. Both guys were serving and hitting the ball quite well early.
But some errors and a missed backhand cost Djokovic in the third. Zverev broke to go up 3-1, then held off a Djokovic break chance for 4-2 and managed to close it out for another huge win over the Serb.
“Every time we play it takes hours,” Zverev said on the court after the win. “I have not spent more time on court with anybody other than him this year. I am happy with the win and happy to be in the final here and to give myself the best chance for tomorrow.”
Djokovic has now lost two of his last three to Zverev who against stayed strong on his serve and kept his nerves at the end.
“He’s one of the best servers in the world,” said Djokovic. “He showed tonight why that is a fact. He got himself out of trouble a few times with serve,”
“I was serving pretty good, as well. I just had the one very bad game in the third set. Three forehands, one backhand unforced error, really from pretty easy positions. Just really wasted the match in that game. Even though I thought it was quite even, had some chances to come back, 2-4 down in the third, just missed again, a forehand long.
“Tough match. But I enjoyed it. I thought it was a really good battle, really high quality tennis. We pushed each other, as we always do.”
The wrap for Djokovic is it’s been a tough second-half of the season. I know he won Paris, but that miss in Tokyo when he was cruising has to still sting. And then the letdown in the US Open final. But, he’s still No. 1 — for now — and the favorite among the Big 3 to reach 21 and beyond.
“It was a great season, no doubt. I did not play many tournaments, but still managed to end the year at No. 1 for the seventh time, broke records for the year-end No. 1, historic No. 1, won three out of four Slams,” he said. “The year was phenomenal. Maybe could have done better in some other ATP events. But all in all really good ending of the season as well with a title in Paris and semifinals here.”
Earlier in the day, Daniil Medvedev won his 9th straight at the ATP Finals blowing past Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-2. On these quick courts in Italy, Medvedev has been a monster.
“I think all the matches were a great level,” the Russian said of his stellar week. “Different opponents and different styles. I managed to win all the matches. It was not an easy match. When you are in the final you can’t complain, so I am just looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully I can have my best match.”
For Ruud, despite the loss it’s been a fantastic year for the Norwegian, and unlike a Cameron Norrie, he’ll be back at the ATP Finals and as a higher seed. That forehand/serve combo is too good and he’s learning how to play on other surfaces besides clay on which he’s already a top 5 guy.
“It has been a great year for me and my development as a tennis player,” Rudd said. “Getting to know my opponents more and playing this tournament has been a great experience. To finish a very good year off here in Turin has been a great experience for me and something I will be eager to try and repeat and be back here next year.”
So the final tomorrow is a re-run of an earlier round robin match.
Daniil Medvedev v Alexander Zverev
These two 6-foot-6ers just met a few days ago with Medvedev coming away with a tough final set tiebreaker win. That win gave him the lead in the series 6-5 and more concerning for Zverev, Medvedev’s won the last five!
But, turnabout is fair play.
“I lost 8-6 in the third in the group stage, so I am just looking forward to the match as I think it will be a great one,” Zverev said reflecting on his lone round robin loss. “There is only the best here, so it takes a lot to win this tournament.
“I am looking forward to having another chance and we are in the final and I am happy to be in the final. He is one of the best players in the world right now, so It is going to be a difficult match no matter what.”
As Medvedev has improved the last few years — Zverev’s last win came two years ago at the ATP Finals — Zverev’s game doesn’t pose as much of a threat to the Russian as it once did.
To beat Medvedev when he’s on, you need variety. Zverev is a power player. Not a guy using finesse, drop shots, serve/volley and much of a net player. He likes to bash away from the baseline and on a hard court, that’s what Medvedev wants.
So they each play their game, Medvedev comes out ahead. Zverev will have to change things up.
Both guys have been here before, won this title. Know each other’s games. Know what’s at stake and should be fit and healthy.
But Medvedev has the momentum, the bigger titles and he’s beaten Zverev five straight times. To me, that’s enough to side with the Russian. Though we have see the flip from losing the round robin to winning in the final. Zverev did just that three years ago.
The Pick: Medvedev in 3
Of course, the winner here gets a second ATP Finals and probably more importantly, moves closer to becoming the next No. 1.
Match starts at 11am ET on the Tennis Channel.
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