A first-time ATP Finals champion will be crowned for the fifth straight year. Since Novak Djokovic won the most recent of his five titles in 2015, four first-timers have followed: Andy Murray in 2016, Grigor Dimitrov in 2017, Alexander Zverev in 2018 and Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2019.
Both players have beaten Nadal and Djokovic this week. Thiem beat Rafael Nadal in round-robin play and Djokovic in the semis; Medvedev beat Djokovic in the round-robin stage and Nadal in the semis.
This is the first time two players have beaten Nadal and Djokovic at the same event. Thiem and Medvedev are the 10th and 11th players ever to pull off the Nadal-Djokovic double, but two players have never done it at the same event—of course, this is one of the only events where that’s possible.
Medvedev’s going for the biggest title of his career. His greatest triumphs to date are three Masters 1000 crowns: two last year at Cincinnati and Shanghai, and one just a few weeks ago in Paris.
Thiem’s going for the second-biggest title of his career. The Austrian won his first major at the US Open this year—his next-biggest title is a Masters 1000 at Indian Wells last year.
If Thiem wins, he’ll have won two of the four biggest tournaments of 2020. With Wimbledon canceled, the three other majors and the ATP Finals are the four biggest events of 2020. In addition to tasting victory at Flushing Meadows, Thiem also reached the final of the Australian Open, falling to Djokovic in five sets.
Medvedev’s 6-0 against Top 10 players in the last three weeks. Coming into November, the Russian was on a five-match losing streak against Top 10 players. But he’s now beaten six of them in a row—two in Paris a few weeks ago (No. 9 Diego Schwartzman and No. 7 Alexander Zverev) and four so far this week in London (No. 7 Zverev, No. 1 Djokovic, No. 9 Schwartzman and No. 2 Nadal).
Medvedev’s trying to become the second man ever to win the ATP Finals a year after making a winless debut. Three men who made winless debuts would eventually win the title—Stefan Edberg, Michael Stich and Djokovic—but only Djokovic rebounded the year after, going 0-3 in his first time at the event in 2007 and then winning the title in 2008. Medvedev went 0-3 in his debut in 2019…
Thiem is 3-1 against Medvedev. Their last three meetings have all been decided in straight sets: Thiem won in the 2019 Barcelona final on clay, 6-4, 6-0; Medvedev won in the 2019 Montreal quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-1; and Thiem won in the 2020 US Open semifinals, 6-2, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (5).
Their first career meeting—which is also the only time they’ve played on indoor hard courts—was by far their closest encounter, with Thiem sneaking it out in a third set tiebreaker, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (2), at 2018 St. Petersburg.
No matter what happens, Thiem and Medvedev will stay at No. 3 and No. 4 on the ATP rankings on Monday. But winning the title would put Thiem within striking distance of No. 2 to kick off 2021—he would be within just 225 ranking points of current No. 2 Nadal, 9,850 to 9,625. No one other than Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray have been ranked in the Top 2 for more than 15 years.
Also... Medvedev is trying to become the first man in more than 13 years to beat the Top 3 at the same event. After wins over No. 1 Djokovic and No. 2 Nadal, he takes on No. 3 Thiem. The last man to achieve the feat was David Nalbandian at Madrid in 2007 (No. 1 Federer, No. 2 Nadal, No. 3 Djokovic).