Medvedev Caps Season Winning Biggest Trophy Of Them All

Daniil Medvedev, 2020 Nitto ATP Finals champion (photo: @atptour/Twitter)

WASHINGTON/LONDON, November 22, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Both Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev, this year’s finalists in the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, came into their championship match having beaten World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and World No. 2 Rafael Nadal, the top two seeds, this week in London. This, of course, is never an easy feat. While Thiem and Medvedev are the 10th and 11th players to ever pull off the Djokovic-Nadal double, it’s the first time two players have beaten Djokovic and Nadal at the same event.

On Sunday, in the final title tussle at The O2 Arena before the ATP Tour finale moves into its new digs next year in Turin, Italy – and with Djokovic or Nadal no longer in the title mix – this much was certain: A first-time ATP Finals champion would be crowned for the fifth straight year.

As it happened, Medvedev rallied from a set down, then mentally and physically came on strong at the end and parlayed the only break point he won against Thiem into a championship title at the ATP Tour’s biggest event of the year. Medvedev beat Thiem, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4, in two hours and 42 minutes for the biggest title win of his career. He became only the fourth player to beat the Top Three players in the world at a single event since the beginning of the ATP Tour in 1990.

“What a match,” said Medvedev during the trophy ceremony.“One of my best victories, two hours [and] 42 [minutes], three sets against an amazing player. Dominic, congratulations already for what you achieved in your career. Your name is already in the history of tennis books. It is amazing. You won a Grand Slam this year. You are playing unbelievable. I hope we are going to have many more matches to come on the big occasions like this.”

In the beginning, on serve at 2-all, Medvedev inexplicably lost his serve from 40-0. First, he committed two forehand unforced errors followed by a smash into the net for deuce. Then, Thiem hit a drop shot winner and broke on Medvedev’s third double fault. Thiem solidified the break with a hold for a 4-2 lead. While Medvedev countered with his fifth ace during a solid hold to remain a break down, Thiem held at love for 5-3. A game later, he won the 50-minute first set by finishing an 11-shot rally with a net-cord winner that Medvedev was unable to get his racquet on.

The Austrian won 78 percent (21 of 27) first-serve points and saved both of the break points he faced from Medvedev. Both players had 12 winners. Only four points (37-33) separated the two finalists with Thiem having the edge.

On serve at 2-all to start the second set, Medvedev held to close out a 14-point game in which the Russian saved a break point. Later, Medvedev saved two break points with his eighth ace to get himself out of a hole during the 12-point game to maintain a 4-3 advantage. Neither side budged as the hold games got shorter and a second set tiebreak was in order. After Thiem took a 2-0 lead, Medvedev roared back with seven unanswered points, and his 10th ace of the match gave him the tiebreak 7-2. It meant the match, which had reached one hour and 50 minutes, would be going to a decider.

During the second set, Medvedev saved each of the three break points he faced and Thiem erased the only one he faced, which came during the eighth game. Only one point separated the two players, with Medvedev holding a 45-44 lead. Indeed the margins became slim as the tension mounted.

Next, Thiem got himself out of a huge jam in the third game of the final set when he erased three break points and won five straight to hold serve for a 2-1 lead. Medvedev was now 0-for-6 in converting break points. It was Thiem’s 31st straight hold game. However, that streak would be broken in Thiem’s next service game. At 2-all, on Medvedev’s third break-point opportunity of the game, he broke with a cross-court forehand volley that completed an eight-shot rally and 14-point game.

With both players showing mental and physical fatigue – but doing their best to hold it all in check – Medvedev held serve for a 4-2 advantage as he began playing serve and volley and won the game with a nice backhand volley that Thiem hit long. Then, Thiem held at love, but would need to break Medvedev to remain alive. He wasn’t able to pull it off.

Medvedev did what he needed to do in his next service game: He held serve at love by hitting a backhand volley winner at the net to push ahead 5-3. Then, Thiem came up with the biggest hold of the match for him by recovering from 15-30 to win three straight points. With the match and the championship on his racquet – going after the biggest title of his career – Medvedev didn’t disappoint himself or his fans. At 40-30 on his first match point, the Russian won the game, the set and the match when Thiem hit his first return off of Medvedev’s serve into the net. It wrapped up the 52-minute set and two hour and 42-minute match and closed the history book on London. It marked the seventh time that Medvedev came back to win after losing the first set and it was his second lifetime win over Thiem in five tries.

Medvedev finished with 12 aces and won 77 percent (51 of 66) of his first-serve points. He saved three of the four break points he faced from Thiem. Thiem had six aces and won 74 percent (63 of 85) first-serve points. He saved eight of nine break points, but certainly must have wished he could take back the one he lost in the third set. Medvedev outpointed Thiem 115-112. It was that close.

Thiem was attempting to be the first player from Austria to win the Nitto ATP Finals in singles or doubles. It was the second consecutive year he suffered a heartbreaking loss in the final. Last season, it was Stefanos Tsitsipas who beat Thiem in a final-set tie-break for the trophy.

“Of course, I am disappointed, but at the same time I am also proud of the performance of all the week. Daniil really deserved it,” said Thiem (31-9) after receiving his runner up trophy. “[It was an] amazing match. Congratulations for, in general, another great year. I think it was an amazing month [in] November, with [the] Bercy title and here and I hope we will have many great matches to come. It was a pleasure today, even though I lost.”

Medvedev finished the 2020 season with a flourish. He went 10-0 in November with seven Top 10 wins after having no Top 10 wins from November 2019 to October 2020. Just this week, he beat No. 7 Alexander Zverev, No. 1 Djokovic, No. 9 Diego Schwartzman, No. 2 Nadal and No. 3 Thiem. In addition, Medvedev became the first man in more than 13 years to beat the Top 3 at the same event. The last to achieve this was David Nalbandian at Madrid in 2007 (defeating No. 1 Roger Federer, No. 2 Nadal and No. 3 Djokovic).

As Medvedev hoisted the Nitto ATP Finals trophy, one of the largest in the sport, it put a cap on a great season for him – and he went from 0-3 at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals to 5-0 12 months later. Medvedev ended 2020 with a very impressive 10-match winning streak and a 27-10 win-loss record.

Koolhof and Mektic win first doubles title together

The doubles final featured another Austrian, 39-year-old Jurgen Melzer, who was attempting to become the first Nitto ATP Finals champion from Austria. Melzer and 36-year-old Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France, seeded seventh, came in seeking their second ATP Tour doubles title as a team. They had enjoyed a remarkable run this week in London.

The Austrian/French duo faced US Open finalists and fifth seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Nikola Mektic from Croatia, who had yet to win an ATP Tour doubles title together. If Koolhof and Mektic were to win, they would be the first team in history to win their first tour-level title at the Nitto ATP Finals.

And they did just that.

Koolhof and Mektic finished their debut season on a winning note. They beat Melzer and Roger-Vasselin, 6-2, 3-6, 10-5, in one hour and 16 minutes. Koolhof and Mektic outpointed their opponents 57-50 and it came down to match point being decided on a double fault by Melzer.

“[It is] a dream come true to have qualified here for this event,”Koolhof said during the trophy ceremony after their victory.

“[We] managed to play some very good tennis, made it through the group stage. Won yesterday, played a very good match yesterday. Played here the final today, which is always a dream, to play every final. But to play the final of the [Nitto ATP] Finals is very big and [we are] extremely happy to have won.”

Koolhof and Mektic jumped out to a double-break lead at 5-1 in the first set – both breaks coming on Roger-Vasselin’s serve – before Melzer held at love. However, Koolhof and Mektic put away the opener at love, winning 6-2 on an overhead smash by the Dutchman. He and Mektic won 11 of 11 first-serve points and dropped just three points on their serve.

Then, the 36-minute second set was dominated by Melzer and Roger-Vasselin, who won 18 of 18 first-serve points and evened the match at a set apiece. It meant sending the final to a match tiebreak to determine this year’s champion.

In the match tiebreak, Koolhof and Mektic gained an early break and led 4-2 when the two teams changed sides. An ace by Koolhof, his team’s fifth, gave him and Mektic a 5-3 lead, but Melzer and Roger-Vaseline brok back on a double fault by Koolhof. They leveled it on the next point at 5-all.

However, Koolhof and Mektic broke back to lead 6-5 on a forehand winner by Mektic, who stepped up and contributed two of the next three points on a service winner and a forehand return winner. Then, ahead 9-5, Koolhof and Mektic won the match and the title trophy when Melzer double-faulted on championship point. They won the last five points of the match.

“It was a hell of a ride,” said Melzer after receiving his runner-up plate. “We have been fighting hard since Roland Garros, played almost every week to get here and then coming to the Nitto ATP Finals is a great achievement.

“Of course, it stings today, and it hurts, but in the end, we’re going to look back at being runners-up here. The Nitto [ATP Finals] is the pinnacle of our sport. Every player wants to be part of this event. I was lucky enough to make it three times and I will always look back and cherish this moment.”

Next, an emotional Roger-Vasselin thanked his partner. “Thanks Jurgen for this great year. [It was our] last match together today,” he said. “We wish we could have the other trophy, but it was a long, long journey to come to London and get to the final. Maybe after a couple of days I will realize it was a good week. But right now, it’s painful.”

Mektic became the first Croatian to the win the Nitto ATP Finals championship in doubles or singles and Koolhof was the fourth from the Netherlands to win a doubles championship. The duo finished their season 24-13.

“I cannot express how I feel,”Mektic said. “[I am] really, really happy. It’s like a dream come true.”