Nadal falls as Medvedev enters ATP Finals title match

Paola Ditto
Novembre 22, 2020

To put world number four Medvedev's win into perspective, Nadal had triumphed in the last 71 matches in which he had taken the first set.

Medvedev immediately found his focus at the start of the second set, winning his first service game to love before Nadal, a two-time finalist at the event, double-faulted to give the Russian a 2-0 lead.

In Saturday's rematch of February's Australian Open final, in which Djokovic beat Thiem in five sets, there were plenty of long baseline exchanges on the indoor hard court - where things were quiet because spectators were banned due to the coronavirus pandemic - and few break chances for either player.

"I felt really unusual until 5-4 for him in the second set, when he was serving for the match", Medvedev said. "To play these legends is always something special, playing for the final here is also something very special", Thiem said during his on-court interview. "I thought after winning the title in NY I would be more calm, but that was a mistake I guess".

"I was just as tight and as nervous as before".

"From 0-4 in the third-set tiebreak I went for every single shot and every single shot went in". The Spaniard, who clinched a record 13th Roland Garros title in October, said the reverse was a combination of some good tennis by his opponent and poor play by him. "I am really happy about it". "I think it's going to be great tennis tomorrow", the Russian said.

Djokovic pulled out some big serves in the important moments in an empty O2 Arena to reach the semifinals for the ninth time, notably in the tiebreaker when he recovered from a 2-0 deficit. The result looked like a foregone conclusion considering the duo's head-to-head record and the fact that it had been nearly two years since Nadal lost a match after winning the opening set.

Djokovic, 33, earned his first break point of the match in the eighth game but Thiem snuffed out the danger. He, however, roared back to win the next six points and while Djokovic saved a fifth match point, Thiem got the job done at the next opportunity.

The Austrian is only the second player in 2020 to win a tie-break against Djokovic, who entered the third-set decider with a 15-1 tie-break record this season.

This was the latest in a series of close matches played out between these two.

Meanwhile, Nadal, who failed to advance to the last four past year, started this tournament with a routine dispatching of ATP Finals debutant Andrey Rublev (winner of the most ATP titles in 2020 with five in total) and beat the 2019 champion, Stefanos Tsitpisas, in a winner-takes-all contest after Nadal had lost to Thiem in two close sets. Once again, one of the greatest returners in the game was unable to get the serve back.

The Serb seemed to be having trouble freeing himself up but he was certainly not the only player feeling the tension in an extraordinary second-set tie-break.

Djokovic fought off four match points during an epic second set breaker.

Like in the first set, Nadal suddenly served for this one at 5-4.

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