ATP Finals: On-fire Medvedev blasts past Djokovic to qualify for semis

ATP Finals: On-fire Medvedev blasts past Djokovic to qualify for semis

The Russian steamrolled the 17-time Grand Slam champion on Wednesday, 6-3, 6-3, and with Alexander Zverev beating Diego Schwartzman earlier on, ensured his place in the final four.

A day after Dominic Thiem surprised No. 2 Rafael Nadal, Daniil Medvedev made a statement of his own at the Nitto ATP Finals on Wednesday. The Russian produced a terrific performance—winning seven games in a row at one point—to upstage world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, 6-3, 6-3.

With Alexander Zverev beating Diego Schwartzman in the first match the day, Medvedev’s win over Djokovic means he’s the first player in Group Tokyo 1970 to qualify for the semifinals.

“I always like to play Novak,” Medvedev said. “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. It was always a dream come true to play against him, and actually he was the first of the Big 3 that I played in my career—in Davis Cup—so I always have amazing memories of matches against him.

“Of course I’m really happy to have beaten him today. I served well and played safe enough in the most important moments of the match, and I think that’s why I got the win today.”

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Both players looked sharp early on, with neither player budging on serve. But after Djokovic held for 3-2, Medvedev lifted his game to a whole new level—he won the next seven games in a row, including three breaks, to build a 6-3, 3-0 lead. The two players held from there until it was all over, as the Russian ripped one last forehand winner on match point to end it after an hour and 21 minutes.

Medvedev finished the match with 20 winners—including 10 aces—to just 12 unforced errors, while Djokovic had almost as many winners (19) but more than twice as many unforced errors (28).

“To be completely honest I’m sure he didn’t play his best today, but it happens for everybody,” Medvedev said. “We say that the Big 3 are the champions because it happens less for them than for other players, but it’s still tough to beat them even on their bad days, so I’m really happy for the win.

“I’m feeling good and confident. I knew I had to take my chances. It was a great match for me.”

It was Medvedev’s third career win over a reigning No. 1: his first two wins over No. 1s also came at the expense of Djokovic at a pair of Masters 1000 events last year in Monte Carlo and Cincinnati.

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The Russian had gone 0-3 in round-robin matches in his ATP Finals debut in 2019, but he’s now 2-0 here in 2020, and 4-0 in sets—he beat Zverev in his first round-robin match on Monday, 6-3, 6-4.

Though Djokovic is a five-time champion at the ATP Finals, he’s always struggled at this stage of the tournament—he improved to 12-1 in first round-robin matches at this event with his win over Schwartzman on Monday, but he’s now 6-7 in his career in second round-robin matches at this event.

“Yeah, just had a pretty bad seven games in a row that I lost from 3-2 up. In no time it was 6-3, 3-0 for him,” Djokovic said after his loss to Medvedev. “Yeah, you cannot allow these things to happen when you’re playing one of the top players of the world. He was just better, no question about it.”

But the Serb isn’t out of this year’s event by any means. He plays Zverev on Friday, and the winner of that match will become the second qualifier for the semifinals out of Group Tokyo 1970.

Djokovic is 3-2 against Zverev, but they're 1-1 on indoor hard, playing twice before at the 2018 ATP Finals. Djokovic cruised in the round-robin stage, 6-4, 6-1, but Zverev exacted revenge in the sweetest way possible, a 6-4, 6-3 victory in the championship match.