No matter how Friday’s first round-robin match between Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas goes at the Nitto ATP Finals, everything remains on the line in the evening session. Daniil Medvedev will battle Alexander Zverev to determine the player who ultimately joins Tsitsipas in the final four.
Zverev has gone 1-1, starting his week with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Nadal but then falling to Tsitsipas, 6-3, 6-2. Medvedev is 0-2, losting to Tsitsipas, 7-6 (5), 6-4, and then to Nadal, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-6 (4), in a match where he led 5-1 in the third set and had a match point.
Both Zverev and Medvedev can still qualify for the semifinals:
If Nadal beats Tsitsipas in the day match…
~ If Medvedev beats Zverev at night, Nadal qualifies.
~ If Zverev beats Medvedev at night, Zverev qualifies.
If Tsitsipas beats Nadal in the day match…
~ Zverev will qualify if he wins a set against Medvedev.
~ Medvedev will qualify if he beats Zverev in straight sets.
Zverev beat Medvedev the first four times they played, though Zverev was already an established top player in those first four meetings. Medvedev was still finding his footing on tour, as he never ranked higher than No. 50.
In their only meeting in the last 15 months, in the final of the Masters 1000 event in Shanghai a month ago, a No. 4-ranked Medvedev beat a No. 6-ranked Zverev in straight sets for the title, 6-4, 6-1.
“He’s a different player now. You can’t compare,” Zverev said after losing to Medvedev in Shanghai. “He plays very flat. He plays with shots where you can’t really do anything with the ball, I feel like, and it’s difficult to play against him in an aggressive way. That’s maybe why on TV it looks like the players are not playing as aggressively against him as against others, but I feel like he doesn’t let you.”
“I think I just became a better player than I was when when I played him those four times before,” Medvedev said. “I think I became a better player than I was even in the beginning of the year, and that’s why some of these results can change like this. I think it’s everything together - something clicked in my game in the USA. I don’t know why - I just think it’s the hard work I’ve been doing.”
Whether or not it qualifies him for the semifinals, beating Zverev would give Medvedev his tour-leading 60th win of the year. To help illustrate just how big of a breakthrough season it’s been for him, the 23-year-old Russian had 72 tour-level wins in his entire career coming into 2019.
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