Daniil Medvedev is the king of tennis until someone proves otherwise, as his 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory over the world No.3 and the US champion Open Dominic Thiem to win the ATP Tour Finals trophy left the match. best players, young and old, in a heap at his feet.
The 24-year-old Russian has done what no one has done here since Roger Federer 10 years ago: defeating Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal on their way to victory – and what no one has done since David Nalbandian in 2007 , sweeping the top three players. in the world. He is also the sixth winner in six years. The change has happened.
Stan Smith sent his congratulations to the winner for the giant screen on the court on the 50th anniversary of the event, the last in London after 12 years. “What a game, one of my best wins, two hours 42 minutes against Dominic,” Medvedev said. “Your name is already in the history books. “Thiem said: of his opponent:” Of course I am disappointed but I am also proud of my performance. Daniil really deserved it, a great game and an amazing year. I hope we will have many matches to come.
Medvedev reached the final with the best stats in all departments of the match except aces, where Thiem improved him 37-31. When they got there, one-on-one, the numbers became unnecessary.
Medvedev, playing delicious but unrewarded tennis, blinked first. Thiem – who admitted he tightened in key points in the semi-final against Djokovic on Saturday – broke 3-2 after half an hour but his racquet arm momentarily grabbed again , and the Russian took him on a tie, before he moved away from him.
A love hold lifted Thiem, not one of nature’s first runners. He overcame the cramp and the scorecard to defeat Alexander Zverev in the US Open final in September, and he’s been just as strong in this 12th and final London edition of this tournament: 2-5 in the breaker of the first set against Nadal, 0-4 behind in the decisive shootout against Djokovic. It is as if he is more comfortable in adversity, where he is sure of his inner strength.
It was cruel for Medvedev, however, to lose the set as he controlled the point and ready to force two to see Thiem’s forehand cut the net and spin over his shoulder, his 37th point of the set in the 34th of. Medvedev. It was still hopelessly close.
The mental and physical games continued on an equal level in the second set. From a distance they looked like Djokovic and Nadal look-alikes, Medvedev the slim and angular retriever of lost causes, Thiem coming off like a middleweight looking for a knockout. There was tension in every exchange, much of it created by Thiem as Medvedev struggled for pace and control over his delicate strategy. The Austrian should have pushed the door wide open in Game 7, as Medvedev crazed the net behind an 83mph second serve at the break point, but the ripped response sailed widely. Thiem then overcooked a forehand to an unprotected two-way court and the moment was over.
Thiem, playing with a Medvedev ferocity countered by cerebral unpredictability, continued to explode huge kicks from all corners. After a nervous grab from Thiem, they went to the tie-break, where Muscovite intellect prevailed, as Medvedev won six points in a row. Incredibly, the level soared stratospheric as they went punch for punch in the third. Medvedev was gnawing at Thiem’s physical strength with his languid variety, but he couldn’t concede three break points in Game 3 against an opponent strong enough to hit a forehand at 99 mph with both feet above the ground, and a good 15 feet behind. the baseline.
The excellence did not diminish and after nine chances, six of which were in the conclusion, Medvedev finally broke his man to lead 3-2. He was in a gorge, and he stayed there to the line, although Thiem fought him on all points.
It was a strange farewell to an event that former ATP general manager Chris Kermode turned into the biggest cash cow outside the slams. The strategically placed lights in the empty seats swirled and clicked in the cavernous darkness of an arena that holds between 17,000 and 18,000 patrons in the right times, giving a false sense of life and excitement where it isn’t. did not exist beyond the two-tone drama. blue battlefield below. And that was not lacking.
In a venue that has hosted 2.8 million tennis fans since 2009 – most applauding Roger Federer – the finalists were oblivious to the echo as their rackets rang, their shoes screamed, and their small teams dared to break through the silence with the ‘strange polite applause. .
Embroidering the illusion for the television audience, meanwhile, was applause, much like that of fanless television football in this pandemic length. If we ever get back to normal, will we remember what to do in the peak moments of sporting effort? The widely held hope is that Turn will hum and vibrate to cheers at the start of their five-year tenure in 12 months. Pretty much on the money. But the final act will be remembered not only for the often excellent tennis, but also for the absence of reality as we know it.