Daniil Medvedev has extended Rafael Nadal’s hunt for his first ATP Finals title by at least another year after staging a marathon comeback in their semi-final clash on Saturday.
The world No.4 looked to be on the verge of straight sets loss before fighting back to prevail 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-3, in what is his first ever win over Nadal on the ATP Tour. Locking horns for more than two-and-a-half hours, Medvedev looked the fresher out of the two during the closing stages as he produced a total of 13 aces and 42 winners. A big contrast to Nadal’s tally of three and 26. Furthermore, the Russian only dropped serve once and broke four times.
“I felt really strange for him (Nadal) when he was serving at 5-4 in the second set for the match,” said Medvedev. “I felt like I was doing great shots, but there were no links in my game and that is why I was losing. He was better in the important moments and I couldn’t return in those important moments.’
“(Then) I decided to change some small things. To be closer (to the lines) and go for it a little bit more because I felt like I had the chance to win some games before.’
“It worked really well and I am really happy about it.”
Taking to the court Medvedev was arguably Nadal’s biggest test so far in the tournament. Heading into the clash, he had won all three of his previous matches in straight sets and had only dropped his serve once. Although early on, it looked as if the Spaniard would be triumphant.
The opener was a tightly contested encounter until the world No.2 struck in the eighth game. Continuing to repeatedly hit the ball deep towards the baseline, Nadal turned the fortunes in his favour after breaking a shaky Medvedev to love for a 5-3 lead. Continuing his surge, he clinched the opening set in the following game with a forehand shot that proved too problematic for his opponent to return.
Despite the breakthrough, Medvedev refused to back down. Triggering memories of their clash at the 2019 US Open when he came from two sets down to force their match into a decider, which Nadal won on that occasion. Capitalising on a sub-par Nadal service game, Medvedev swiftly worked his way to a 3-0 lead in the second frame.
With his back pushed against the wall, the 20-time Grand Slam champion responded in fitting fashion as he clawed his way back to level 4-4. Although part of his comeback was aided by some tentative tennis that was being produced from the other side of the court.
The roller-coaster continued for both men. Initially, it looked as if Nadal would seal the match 6-3, 6-4, after Medvedev produced a dismal service game. However, it was then Nadal’s turn to implode after a series of loose shots enabled the Russian to draw level once again at 5-5. The cat and mouse chase continued into the tiebreak where Medvedev finally seized his opportunity. After coming out on top in a 28-shot rally to clinch an early break, he weathered the storm en route to forcing the match into a final set.
Nadal is regarded as one of the greatest front-runners in the entire sport. Prior to the London semi-finals, he had won 173 out of 175 matches where he had claimed the opening set. However, it wouldn’t be this time round. Instead a Medvedev smash at the net gifted him a break for 4-3 in the decider as he closed in on victory. Nadal was unable to respond as he started to rapidly fade on the court. Enabling Medvedev to prevail on his first match point after a shot from Nadal touched the top of the net but failed to go over.
“I think I achieved enough to not find an excuse about the pressure,” Nadal replied when asked if nerves got the better of him.
“I know I won enough matches and enough tournaments in an even more difficult situation than this one and even in more important matches than tonight.’
“I felt I played a bad game. Of course you are nervous to win the match.’
“I think he played some good points and I make a couple of mistakes. And that’s it, and then he played a good tiebreak.’
“I should have been winning my serve in the third, the one that I lost. I had easy volley to close the game. Small details makes a big difference.”
Medvedev will next play Dominic Thiem in the final on Sunday. The Austrian ousted Novak Djokovic in his semi-final match. It will be the fifth meeting between the two with Thiem currently leading their head-to-head 3-1.
“Dominic is an amazing player. I have practice with him twice here (in London) on the centre court. There was really tight points and games so I think there are going to be great tennis tomorrow (in the final),” he previewed.
Should Medvedev win the title he would become the first player to defeat every member of the world’s top three within the same tournament since David Nalbandian at the 2007 Madrid Open.
ATP RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more
After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10
By Roberto Ferri
“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”
Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.
Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.
A few comments:
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.
Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.
Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.
Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively at the 2022 US Open, drop 4 positions.
One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.
ATP NITTO FINALS
From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.
Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.
Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.
The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.
Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.
ATP NEXT GENERATION FINALS
The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.
The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.
Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.
Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.
We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.
The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open
Love him, or hate him. But respect him.
No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.
Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.
Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.
DJOKOVIC WENT ONE STEP FURTHER
Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.
It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.
Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.
A FOURTH AND 24TH TITLE, AND A 24 TRIBUTE
At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.
The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.
Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.
Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.
THREE POINTS MAY HAVE BEEN DECISIVE
Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.
Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.
The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
Alcaraz Fell Victim To Unbeatable Medvedev
Carlos Alcaraz was no match for Daniil Medvedev in the US Open semi-finals.
A star had to fall. There was no other way.
This time, Carlos Alcaraz was the victim. Daniil Medvedev was unbeatable.
The 6-6 Russian was everywhere, playing almost perfect tennis in a 7-6 (3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win over Alcaraz.
So, one former champion went down while one advanced to Sunday’s final at the U.S. Open.
And then there was Novak Djokovic, another former champion headed for the title match.
U.S. OPEN WAS THE BIG WINNER FRIDAY
The U.S. Open couldn’t lose once Djokovic dominated young American Ben Shelton, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4).
Djokovic appeared to be content with just winning while getting the preliminaries over with. He seemed to be a little miffed by Shelton’s cockiness. There were no hugs or embraces when the match ended. Just a handshake.
Shelton has huge potential, but it’s going to take some time before he’s ready to join the likes of Djokovic, Medvedev and Alcaraz. He’s a better athlete than he is tennis player.
Novak is ready to go for a record 24th Grand Slam title.
Believe it or not, Medvedev will be playing in his fifth Grand Slam final.
Sunday should be a great day in Arthur Ashe Stadium, with two former champs, Djokovic and Medvedev, going against each other.
CAN COCO HIT WITH SABALENKA
The women’s final will be interesting. Can Coco Gauff compete with Aryna Sabalenka?
Sabalenka looked helpless against Madison Keys’ big strokes and serves in the first set of their semifinal on Thursday.
Sabalenka couldn’t win even one game in that set. She looked helpless.
But she obviously felt all along that she could beat Keys anytime she wanted. Or why else would the powerful Sabalenka go for broke on almost every shot? And it almost cost her.
Amazingly, Sabalenka waited almost to the final moments to decide to play within her game and stop the wildness.
Once Sabalenka decided to settle down and play to win, Keys went just the opposite way, similarly to her one-sided loss to Sloane Stephens in the 2017 U.S. Open final.
Keys appeared ready to win this time as she held a 6-0, 5-4 advantage over new world’s No. 1 Sabalenka, who seemed to be stumbling all over the court as she repeatedly hit wild shots in every direction.
Just like that, everything changed. Sabalenka started hitting winners everywhere as Keys reversed roles with Sabalenka. Not only did Sabalenka win the second set while dropping just one point in a tiebreaker, she stormed through a decisive 10-point third-set tiebreaker to win the match.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
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