Medvedev storms back to beat Thiem and claim ATP Finals title

Russia's Daniil Medvedev lifts the trophy as he celebrates winning the final match against Austria's Dominic Thiem at the O2 stadium in London November 22, 2020. — Action Images via Reuters
Russia's Daniil Medvedev lifts the trophy as he celebrates winning the final match against Austria's Dominic Thiem at the O2 stadium in London November 22, 2020. — Action Images via Reuters

LONDON, Nov 23 — Daniil Medvedev barged to the head of the queue of young pretenders as the Russian captured the biggest title of his career by storming back to beat Dominic Thiem 4-6 7-6(2) 6-4 in an absorbing climax to London’s last ATP Finals yesterday.

Thiem looked on course to become the first Austrian to win the title, following on from his recent US Open triumph, but the relentless Medvedev turned the tide in superb fashion to cap a stunning week for the 24-year-old.

There was no big celebration as he fired an unreturnable first serve on match point to end the two-hour-and-42-minute scrap and bring the curtain down on 12 memorable years for the event at the O2 Arena before it relocates to Turin.

Fittingly, Medvedev became the first Russian to win the title since Nikolay Davydenko, who won London’s first edition in 2009.

Sadly for an event that attracted 2.8 million fans to the Thames-side arena in its first 11 editions, this year’s tournament, a vintage edition, was staged in a silent arena because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It perhaps explained Medvedev’s muted reaction to claiming the title and becoming only the fourth player in ATP history to beat the world’s top three at the same tournament, joining David Nalbandian (Madrid 2007), Novak Djokovic (Montreal 2007) and Boris Becker (Stockholm 1994).

“First of all what a match. I mean, one of my best victories, three sets against an amazing player,” Medvedev, who avenged his US Open semi-final defeat by Thiem, said on court.

Medvedev’s imaginative game, a blend of sledgehammer power, cunning angles and unreadable serving, had proved beyond Djokovic in the group phase in which he went 100 per cent and then second-ranked Rafael Nadal in Saturday’s semi-final.

The 27-year-old Thiem appeared to have mastered it but ultimately was overwhelmed.

Medvedev’s triumph came a year after a chastening debut at the event when he lost all three group matches. The only other player to achieve such a drastic turnaround is Djokovic in 2008.

After such a hot streak, including claiming this month’s Paris Masters, the Moscovite was perhaps due a dip and it arrived in the first set as he threw away a 40-0 lead on serve at 2-2, gifting Thiem a break with a double-fault.

It proved enough for the Austrian to pocket the first set and he went for the quick kill in the second as Medvedev’s usually rock-solid serve and forehand wavered.

The Russian hung in though, saving break points at 2-2 and 3-3, and began to look menacing as the tiebreak arrived.

Thiem led 2-0 but Medvedev reeled off seven points in a row to ensure London’s farewell would go the distance.

Thiem, who had also beaten Nadal and Djokovic this week, had spent two more hours on court than Medvedev to reach the final and his silky game began to fray in the third set.

Medvedev stalked him with his relentless power and accuracy and the Russian secured the break of serve he had threatened at 2-2 with a stealthy approach and volleyed winner.

Thiem dug in but world number four Medvedev never looked like letting his lead slip as he became the fifth successive first-time winner of the title.

Alexander Zverev landed it in 2018 and Stefanos Tsitsipas last year. Neither have gone on to claim a Grand Slam title yet, but Medvedev will enter 2021 as the man most likely to make that breakthrough for the much-hyped next generation.

“For tennis there are exciting times coming,” Thiem said of the new vanguard. “Super important for the sport in general.” — Reuters

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