Daniil Medvedev has earned the biggest title of his career by winning the Nitto ATP Finals at the O2 and hopes it will serve as a springboard to greater things over the next few years, as he attempts to follow his beaten rival to a Grand Slam triumph.
What a match. One of my best victories, two hours and 42 minutes, three sets against an amazing player Daniil Medvedev
He also becomes the last player to raise the champion’s trophy at The O2 as the event will now transfer to Turin for 2021 after 12 very successful years at the prestigious venue in London.
When the event was first staged in London in 2009, Russian Nikolay Davydenko emerged champion after defeating Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets, so Medvedev’s 4-6 7-6(2) 6-4 triumph over Dominic Thiem, neatly bookends the event’s time in London.
In the initial stages Thiem looked the most likely winner as he patiently sat at the back of the court, often settling into lengthy sliced backhand exchanges forcing Medvedev to generate his own pace.
His game plan worked as he broke through in the fifth game when the Russian served a double fault. He sealed the set after 49-minutes, with a lucky net cord, his forehand clipping said net and looping over the advancing Russian’s racket.
Medvedev, who came from a set down in his semi-final with Rafa Nadal, made a solid start to the second set by changing tactics with regular visits to the net leaving Thiem with difficult targets for his passing shot attempts.
Thiem managed to keep him at bay and had chances to make decisive breaks, loudly showing his frustration when they all failed.
In the eighth game he took a tumble at the start of it and found himself break point down but managed to fend off the attack but not before it became increasingly obvious that Medvedev was clearly in the ascendancy.
And that became clearer when he recovered from 0-2 in the tie-break to reel off seven consecutive points to claim it 7-2.
Medvedev, who doesn’t waste time between points, kept the pressure on, never allowing Thiem time to settle into any sort of rhythm for the deployment of his killer groundstrokes.
The 24-year-old Muscovite finally cracked the Austrian in the fifth game of the decider and while Thiem, 27, fought hard to regain the break, Medvedev hung on in the knowledge that all he had to was hold out to gain the biggest prize of his career.
The victory earned him 1,500 ranking points and $1.564 million which included a bonus for going through the week unbeaten.
He also achieved the rare feat of defeating the top three world-ranked players in the same tournament and it all makes up for a very poor showing on his debut last year, when he failed to win a match!
Speaking at the presentation ceremony to an empty stadium thanks to the coronavirus restrictions, Medvedev said: “What a match. One of my best victories, two hours and 42 minutes, three sets against an amazing player.
Turning to Thiem he added: “”Dominic, congratulations already for what you achieved in your career. Your name is already in the history of tennis books.
“You won a Grand Slam [US Open} this year. You are playing unbelievable. I hope we are going to have many more matches to come on the big occasions like this.”
Thiem himself was realistic. “Of course, I am disappointed, but at the same time I am also proud of the performance of all the week. Daniil really deserved it. It was an amazing match.”
For the fourth consecutive year, the ATP Final champion has not featured one of the Big Three. Each one of those victories was hailed as the end of the old regime but none of them, Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas have been able to follow up with victories at Grand Slam level.
Medvedev looks to be cast from a different mould as he believes in his ability.
“It’s a great boost of confidence for all the Slams coming up and all the tournaments,” the new champion, the world number four, said. “Hopefully I can continue this way.
“It means a lot. [It] shows what I’m capable of when I’m playing good; when I’m feeling good mentally, physically. I know what I’m capable of. I just need to produce it more and more, and hopefully more matches like this.”
Thiem admitted it would still be a battle to beat the Big Three with Roger Federer expected back from injury next season. Nonetheless he remains the one player from the coming generation, to have won at Grand Slam level and as the current world number three, has set his eyes firmly on the top spot.
“This year has been amazing,” he said. “I was playing great and had deep runs in many, many big tournaments. That’s what I want to do as well next year and, if I’m able to do that, I think I will also get chances to climb the rankings.
“But everything’s so close. Rafa and Nole [Djokovic] are up there still, Roger is coming back next year. Guys like Dan and Sascha [Zverev], Stefano and also [Andrey] Rublev, there are I think six, seven guys who will fight for the top spots [in] the next years.
“We have proved that we can play with the legends, that we can also beat them, that we can also win the biggest tournaments. I think the next few years, the Big Three will still play for every big title. I think for tennis some exciting times are coming ahead.”
All augurs well for 2021.