Novak Djokovic looked to be a shoe-in for this year’s Nitto ATP Finals but the challenge from the ‘next generation’ is getting stronger for, following Rafa Nadal’s loss on Tuesday, the Serbian was shocked by Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday.
I was serving good and playing safe enough in the most important moments and that's why I got the win Daniil Medvedev
Both players can still go on to overall victory and the pair could well meet in the final which remains like a fair bet.
In the meantime, Djokovic joins his Spanish rival with a loss and no doubt rueing the missed chances while Medvedev joins Dominic Thiem as very strong contenders to collect the title for the first time and can reflect that possibility.
“Always like to play Novak, first of all because he’s one of the greatest champions in the history of our sport and, when I was eight years old, I was already watching him on TV winning Grand Slams,” Medvedev said following his comfortable 6-3 6-3 victory.
“I was serving good and playing safe enough in the most important moments and that’s why I got the win,” added the Russian, who lost all three of his matches on his debut at The O2 last year.
The match itself was absorbing in that Djokovic, who is seeking a sixth title at the event to match the absent Roger Feder’s record, struggled against the determined Russian, fresh from winning the Paris Masters at Bercy ten days ago.
Medvedev’s breakthrough came in the seventh game which lasted 11 exhausting minutes, having failed to convert a number of break points in earlier games.
Serving strongly, Medvedev collected the opener as an uncharacteristically unsettled Djokovic double-faulted on set-point.
An increasingly confident Medvedev broke the 17-time Grand Slam champion again at the start of the second set to win his sixth consecutive game and, while Djokovic recovered to stop his bad run, he was unable to halt the 24-year-old Muscovite from handing him an uncomfortable defeat.
Djokovic meanwhile will no doubt dust himself down and shake off the loss to concentrate on defeating the 2018 champion Alexander Zverev in his last ‘Group Tokyo 1970’ round-robin series of matches to make the last four.
Earlier, the German fifth seed beat the Argentine Diego Schwartzman 6-3 4-6 6-3, to secure his first win of the week following his opening match loss to Medvedev.
The big-serving Zverev was broken by Schwartzman in the third game but turned the tables with two breaks of his own to take the first set but then stumbled in the second when the diminutive Argentine struck back to level.
In the fifth game of the decider Zverev regained control by breaking his opponent with a well executed forehand volley, a stroke he used again to win the match.
He then said during his on-court interview: “It was much better than on Monday. Diego’s a very difficult player.
“I’m happy to get the win, I’m happy to give myself a chance. Friday is going to be the most difficult match you can have here against Novak. I’m looking forward to it.”
Zverev has not cut a happy figure on court this week but he rejected the idea that allegations of physical abuse by an ex-girlfriend, which he strongly denies, are making it hard to focus on tennis.
Asked how he was dealing with the negative attention, he said: “The same way I’ve been dealing with it the last few weeks. Nothing’s changing, I think I’ve said enough about that. I’m here to play tennis. I did my job today and I’ve got to do it again on Friday.”