With eight TBEN titles, including three ATP Masters 1000 triumphs, Daniil Medvedev played his first Nitto ATP Finals championship game on Sunday with an already excellent list of career achievements. But after winning his biggest title to date at the O2 with a comeback victory over Dominic Thiem, the Russian classified his ninth final victory as the toughest game of his career.
The world No.4 had already beaten the top two players in the FedEx ATP rankings – Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal – en route to the championship game, but it is his win over the Austrian that the 24-year-old will be the most. proud. as he looks back on his title race in the years to come.
“It was the toughest win of my life because Dominic is a really tough player to play,” Medvedev said. “I think today he was at his best… That’s how I felt during the game. He was really about to win it [in the] second set. I managed to stay there. I felt in the third set that I was really physically tired for sure, but I felt like he was starting to miss a few balls, he started to run a little slower because he was tired.
“Making Dominic tired in a three-set game, not a five-set game, I think that’s a big achievement. All these little things Dominic plays like [of] today [as] one of the best players in history [of the sport], not yet maybe by Grand Slam titles and tournaments, but like I say, play [with the form of] today.”
Medvedev’s victory over Thiem made history in the Nitto ATP Final. No player had beaten the top three players in a single edition of the tournament until Sunday. The Russian is only the fourth player, alongside Boris Becker (1994 Stockholm), Djokovic (2007 Montreal) and David Nalbandian (2007 Madrid), to achieve the feat in any case since the start of the TBEN in 1990.
“It’s amazing [to beat the Top 3 here]… In the group I beat Novak, then Rafa in the semi-final and Dominic in the final, [the] best players in the world … [It] means a lot, ”Medvedev said. “[It] shows what I’m capable of when I play well, when I feel good mentally, physically. I know what I’m capable of. I just need to produce it more and more and hopefully more matches like this.
Medvedev’s title race provided a fitting end to London’s 12-year reign as host city in the season finale. The first edition held in London in 2009 was won by compatriot Nikolay Davydenko, who commented on the 2020 final for Russian television. Medvedev was happy to follow in his idol’s footsteps and complete the final chapter of the event in London the same way the story began at the O2: with a Russian holding the trophy.
“[Starting and finishing London with Russian champions] it’s super cool. Actually, I did not know, but Nikolay Davydenko commented on my match on Russian TV. He was a commentator during that match, and then I managed to talk to him right after the match, ”Medvedev said.
“I was so surprised and so happy because he was one of my idols when I was growing up when I was already starting to play not so bad tennis, he was there and he was playing amazing.
Barely a month ago, Medvedev was nowhere near the form that allowed him to win 10 straight matches to win Rolex Paris Masters and Nitto ATP Finals titles. The Moscow native, who has beaten seven Top 10 players in both events, arrived in Paris with just three wins in his last eight matches. Medvedev was also on the hunt for his first trophy in 13 months.
“The tournaments I played before [Paris], they weren’t bad. I played good tennis… I lost against Reilly Opelka in Saint-Petersburg… Same in Vienna, playing with Kevin Anderson, a tough and tough opponent, whom I had at Paris-Bercy… In Paris, I was fighting. I was also fighting in Vienna and St. Petersburg and I knew [my level] could come back but maybe not this year. Finally, this was the case in Paris. I started playing better, I started playing amazingly, should I say.
“When you have that kind of confidence, you just need to know how to keep it. And I think I know how to do it, especially looking back at last year when I had six consecutive finals. So now the question is how to find it faster sometimes. “
Medvedev will aim to carry the confidence he has found over the past few weeks in the 2021 TBEN season. The Russian, alongside double finalist Thiem, hopes to continue his successful run and put even more pressure on Djokovic and Nadal at the top of the FedEx ATP rankings.
Medvedev and Thiem became the first players since Roger Federer in 2010 to beat Djokovic and Nadal in the same edition of the Nitto ATP Finals this week. The question for both players will be whether they can achieve similar success against the two dominant forces of the past decade next year.
“My level of play here, in particular [in] the last two matches I won [was] simply incredible. It can give me a lot for my future career, ”Medvedev said. “Beating Dominic the way he played today and being able to beat him is probably my best win of my life. I’m not even talking about the title itself. I mean, to win the Nitto ATP final, being undefeated, honestly I know I can play well, but I wouldn’t believe it if you told me this before the tournament. Therefore [this is] a great boost of confidence for all upcoming Slams and tournaments. I hope I can continue like this. “