The phrase “the third time is a charm” or “the third time is lucky” as they say in the UK may have come from old English law, in which those who survived three hangings would be freed. The law was apparently inspired by the story of John “Babbacombe” Lee, a Briton who was convicted (on fragile grounds) of stabbing his employer to death in 1885 and sentenced to death by hanging. The hatch on the scaffolding beneath him did not open three times, he was spared, served 22 years in prison, then capitalized on his notoriety with lecture tours and a film.
Luckily for Daniil Medvedev and Diego Schwartzman, no such horrific fate awaits them on Friday night in the final round robin game played at the O2. But Schwartzman, who enters the game 0-2, is hoping the adage “lucky third time” will work in his favor. As he pointed out in his press conference after losing a tough game to Alexander Zverev on Wednesday, the Nitto ATP final is a particularly tough and sometimes cruel tournament.
Everyone is a top player, so the seeds don’t have the option of making their way into the event. And in all other tournaments, the worst thing that can happen to a player is just one loss, while in the season finale one unlucky one could go home for the holidays with three losses in a week. But the beauty of the event is that players also have a chance to measure themselves against the best in the world, and they have an opportunity for redemption even after multiple losses.
Medvedev, already 2-0, won the group Tokyo 1970, and Schwartzman cannot advance to the semi-finals with a victory on Friday night. But Diego has the opportunity to escape the noose of the proverbial hangman with a win, which would earn him 200 FedEx ATP Rankings points, $ 153,000 and a big boost in confidence on his way home to Argentina.
Schwartzman said after his loss to Zverev that he was happy to have organized a comeback offer after losing an unbalanced first set. “I’m happy because I almost made a good comeback,” said Schwartzman, 28. “The game was going very quickly in the first set and the second set. Then I find a way to win the second set and fight the third.
Medvedev, 24, ranked No.4, is flying high after securing convincing victories over Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic in the wake of the Rolex Paris Masters victory earlier this month. But he insisted that he would not forget his last game.
“I have already finished number one in the group, which is great,” he said. “Of course I will try to win my third game.”
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Medvedev beat the Argentinian in his four meetings with ATP Head2Head, losing a set only once, at the ATP Cup in January. He’s particularly good indoors, conditions that don’t naturally suit Diego. The Argentine jokingly lamented his tough draw and the long road he has ahead of him. After the tournament, he will return to Argentina and will then have – according to his calculations – 40 flight hours to reach Australia for the Australian Open. Even for a 5’7 ”man, that whole plane trip will be a tribulation, let alone if he ends his season with a thwarted victory over one of the hottest players on the Tour.