LONDON (AFP) – Daniil Medvedev sent Rafael Nadal packing after a gruelling slugfest at the ATP Finals in London on Saturday (Nov 21) to set up a title match against Novak Djokovic’s conqueror Dominic Thiem.
The Spanish world No. 2, who has never won the elite event in his illustrious career, served for the match in the second set but was eventually beaten 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.
Earlier, US Open champion Thiem recovered from 4-0 down in the third-set tiebreak against Djokovic to win 7-5, 6-7 (10-12), 7-6 (7-5).
The giant Medvedev – arguably the hottest player on the Tour after his Paris Masters win – put Nadal’s serve under intense pressure in the early stages of their evening match at the empty O2 Arena.
But he was unable to make his chances count and a drop in his level allowed the Spaniard to break to love to lead 5-3 before serving out for the set.
Medvedev, 24, immediately found his focus at the start of the second set, winning his first service game to love before Nadal double-faulted to give the Russian a 2-0 lead.
Just when it seemed as though Medvedev was cruising, Nadal, 34, broke back twice to take total control and stepped up to serve for the match.
But in another astonishing twist, the 20-time Grand Slam champion was broken to love and Medvedev won the eventual tiebreak.
The deciding set hinged on the seventh game, which Medvedev eventually won. He repeated the feat to seal a famous win.
Thiem’s victory against Djokovic ended the world No. 1’s hopes of equalling Roger Federer’s record of six titles at the elite eight-man event.
The 2019 runner-up faced an uphill battle psychologically after squandering four match points in the second-set tiebreak.
But he was quickly back in the groove and rallied from a desperate situation in the final-set tie-break, winning six successive points to earn two match points, taking the second of those.
“It was for sure a mental battle,” said Thiem. “I got so tight in the second-set tiebreak, first of all because to play these legends is always going to be something special.
“And then playing for a final here at the ATP Finals is also something very special. I thought after my first big title in New York, maybe I’m going to be a little bit more calm but that was a mistake I guess.”