Daniil Medvedev proved right (for now) the many forecasters picking him to do big things this week at the ATP Finals. After an 0-3 campaign last year, the Russian is 2-0 after blasting favorite Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-3 in the round robin on Wednesday.
Medvedev, who out-Djokovic’d Djokovic, broke through during a long seventh game of the first set, then cruised from there.
“I like to play Novak because he is one of the greatest champions in the history of our sport,” Medvedev said. “When I was eight years old, I was already watching him on TV winning Grand Slams. He was still young. It is always a dream come true to play against him.
“Of course, [I am] really happy to beat him. I was serving good and playing safe enough in the most important moments. That is why I got the win.”
Medvedev finished with 20 winners to 12 unforced to Djokovic’s 19 winners and 28 unforced. The Russian never lost his serve.
“He was just better, no question about it,” Djokovic said. “He’s serving tremendously well, moving great. [He didn’t] give me too many unforced errors and free points. Yeah, I mean, just not a great match from my side. I thought I could have and should have done better, but credit to him for playing on a high level.”
Afterward, the 5-time champ also hinted he wasn’t feeling that great.
“Well, I was, to be honest [not feeling well]a little bit, especially towards the end of the first set, beginning of the second,” he said. “I kind of regrouped and felt better, towards the end of the match. But, yeah, just unfortunate 15, 20 minutes for me that resulted with seven games in a row lost.
“I made some unforced errors. I dropped the level of [my]game and fitness just in general. I struggled to find the right rhythm for 15 minutes or so. You know, against a player like Medvedev, the match is done.”
While Medvedev has won the Tokyo Group, Djokovic will now have to beat Alexander Zverev on Friday to stay in the event.
2018 champion Zverev stayed well in the hunt for a second title getting through and eliminating Diego Schwartzman from semifinal contention with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over the Argentine.
Zverev started and closed strong, and was especially dominant on serve in the third set.
“It was much better than on Monday,” said Zverev. “Diego is a very difficult player. He deserves to be here… There are no easy matches, but I am happy to get the win. I am happy to give myself a chance to go to the semi-finals and I am excited for Friday.”
Zverev beat Djokovic in the 2018 final to win the biggest title thus far in his career.
“Friday is going to be the most difficult match you can have here against Novak,” said Zverev. “We played twice here already, so I am looking forward to it.”
Tomorrow, in a virtual quarterfinal match, Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas collide for a seventh time for the right to meet Dominic Thiem on Saturday. Nadal has won 5 of 6 against the Greek including a round robin win in London last year, Tsitsipas’s only loss en route to the title.
“I’m going to try and play an aggressive,” Tsitsipas said of the challenge. “You can play defensive with Rafa. Try to play the rallies, you know. Play rallies, apply pressure, serve well.
“I just have to be solid. Have to be more solid than him to win. I know that. I have to start strong and finish even stronger.”
In the earlier match, having already won the group, Dominic Thiem will play for points and prize money against the already-eliminated Andrey Rublev.
Thiem still has a shot at the No. 2 ranking but will need to run the table while Nadal has to lose on Thursday.
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