Zverev, Medvedev Reach Rolex Paris Masters final

WASHINGTON/PARIS, November 7, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Three of the current Top 10 – including three of the top four seeds – remained as the semifinal round arrived at the Rolex Paris Masters in Bercy Saturday. By the end, inside near-empty AccorHotels Arena, three seeds were pared down to two after a pair of contrasting but no less compelling matches were decided.

While the afternoon began with a matchup of big sluggers featuring World No. 5 and third seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia against 17th-ranked and tenth seed Milos Raonic from Canada, it was the second semifinal that provided the biggest surprise. That’s because World No. 2 and top seed Rafael Nadal of Spain was upset by World No. 7 Alexander Zverev from Germany, seeded fourth.

Both matches were decided in straight sets and come Sunday, it will be Medvedev facing Zverev in the Rolex Paris Masters final.

Medvedev reaches fourth Masters 1000 final

Medvedev came into his match with Raonic having won both of their previous meetings. After his 6-4, 7-6 (4) semifinal victory, completed in one hour and 37 minutes, Medvedev is now 3-0. His first serve was solid – winning 80 percent (41 of 51) of his first-serve points and he was broken just once. Raonic, who leads the ATP Tour in service aces, added 12 to his total and he won points on 81 percent (38 of 47) of his first serves. However, his second serve percentage dipped to 29 percent (6 of 21) and Medvedev broke the Canadian’s serve twice – once in each set – plus twice in the tiebreak. Medvedev outpointed Raonic 75-63.

The 24-year-old Russian No. 1 was attempting to reach his first ATP Tour final of the season after advancing to nine ATP Tour finals last year, where he went 4-5. Meanwhile, Raonic was looking for his second finals berth of the season after losing to World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the Western & Southern Open final in New York following the resumption of the ATP Tour in August.

On serve through the first four games, Medvedev broke Raonic in the fifth game and consolidated the break with an easy hold for a 4-2 lead. Then, he held at love for 5-3. Through his first four service games, Medvedev had won all of his first-serve points (14 for 14) that set a tone for consistency. He closed out the 38-minute first set with a serve and volley winner that surprised everyone except himself. The Russian finished with big first-set numbers: a 94-percent success rate (16 of 17) in winning points on his first serve – losing just four points on his service total. He did not face any break points, and hit 12 winners to three unforced errors.

“First set was amazing, I had zero break points to save, I think he won one or two points on my serve in the whole set,” said Medvedev during a post-match TV interview. “And I managed to break him in a good way.”

At the outset of the second set, Raonic’s ninth ace held serve for 2-1. Then, at 4-3, Raonic missed a golden opportunity with three break points against Medvedev. Each of them was saved by the Russian, including the last one – a 24-shot rally – that ended when Raonic hit a forehand just long. Raonic’s 12th ace on game point gave him a 5-4 lead, but Medvedev responded with a love game for 5-all.

Then, Medvedev gained a break point at in the 11th game and converted it when Raonic committed an unforced error netting a forehand return to go ahead 6-5 with the match on his racquet. However, Raonic wasn’t done. He gained three break points as Medvedev served for the match. Although Medvedev saved each with a series of impactful serves to gain deuce, Raonic finally broke Medvedev’s serve to force a tiebreak.

Quickly, Medvedev jumped ahead in the tiebreak 4-0, patiently waiting for his opportunities as the unforced forehand errors began to mount up against Raonic. The Canadian regrouped and won the next two points on a couple of errant return. However, Medvedev surged ahead 5-2 when he won an instant replay challenge. After Raonic captured the next two points on his serve, Medvedev gained a match point on a netted return by Raonic. Then, he won it with an overhead winner that capped a seven-shot rally for his 31st winner of the contest. He made just 12 unforced errors the entire match.

“Second set was much tighter,” Medvedev said. “I had one or two games where I had to save break points and it was tough points, then I managed to break him and then I lost my serve. I was shaky here and there but really happy to be through to the final.”

Today, Medvedev was all about business and winning efficiently.

“Yeah, something is working well here in Paris,” Medvedev told Tennis TourTalk. “Maybe I like the balls, maybe the court. But I was working hard, you know, after clay season, before clay season. So, I know that at one moment if you practice well, you do your job, at one moment the sensation is going to come back. This moment came here in Paris, which is really good because that’s my first final.”

Looking back, Raonic said that in key moments Medvedev found a way to be more of the aggressor. “He was dictating a bit more. I was trying to change the pace up,” said Raonic, whose season ended with a 23-10 win-loss record. “You know, maybe I started to find the rhythm of that a little bit too late. 

“I think [Daniil] was a lot more efficient at creating his opportunities. … Just little things like that make a big difference.”

Zverev gains second career win against Nadal

Nadal had won five of his previous six meetings against Zverev. However, the 23-year-old German won their most recent match – 6-2, 6-4 in round-robin play at the Nitto ATP Finals last year. Both players arrived on Court Central for the day’s second semifinal with impressive winning streaks: Zverev 11 in a row and Nadal 10 straight (all coming in Paris starting with the French Open). Although Nadal would remain ranked No. 2 in the world regardless of the outcome, Zverev will move up to No. 6 next week, ahead of current World No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Zverev maintained his composure throughout the duration of his one hour and 39-minute semifinal against Nadal. It paid off for him in a 6-4, 7-5 triumph for his second career victory over Nadal. Zverev, who will go after his fourth Masters 1000 title against Medvedev, becomes the first German into the Rolex Paris Masters final in 25 years.

In Nadal’s fifth semifinal appearance in Bercy – and in search of his first Rolex Paris Masters final since 2007 – he fell behind 3-1 in the first set after being broken in his second service game. Zverev maintained the break advantage at 5-4 and won the 38-minute opening set on his third opportunity with an excellent backhanded drop shot.

In the second set, Zverev jumped ahead 3-1 with a chance at a double break. Although, Nadal saved a break point and held serve, Zverev charged back in the seventh game on Nadal’s serve and had three break points. However, Nadal was tough as nails and saved all three of them. He saved a fourth break point in the game when Zverev hit long on a second-serve return. Nadal went on to hold his serve to complete a grueling 12-point seventh game. Then, he gained his first break of Zverev’s serve to get back on serve at 4-all. From 2-4, love-40 to 4-4, Nadal maintained his focus and composure. But, three games later, Zverev broke at 30-40 when Nadal hit a backhand wide that abruptly ended a seven-shot rally.

Serving for the match, Zverev jumped ahead 30-0. He gained three match points with his 13th and final ace. Nadal saved one of them with a forehand winner, but ended a 10-shot rally with a forehand wide of the corner that put Zverev into the final.

Besides 13 aces, Zverev hit just one double fault and won 79 percent (34 of 43) of his first-serve points. He was broken just once. Meanwhile, Zverev broke Nadal three times, and was effective in winning 45 percent (10 of 22) of Nadal’s second serves.

Before the match, Zverev said he looked forward to the challenge of playing Nadal. “When you play Rafa at any stage of the tournament, you have to be error-free to have success,” Zverev said Friday after his quarterfinal win against 20th-ranked Stan Wawrinka, who was seeded 12th at Bercy. “Even though at later stages, I think all the top players always play better and it’s even more difficult to beat them.

“It’s going to be a very difficult challenge. I think Rafa is extremely motivated here. He has never won this tournament, so I think for him this is extra motivation, as well. For me as well. This is the best result so far that I have done in Paris, but I hope I can go further.”

Afterward, when Tennis TourTalk asked Zverev what the difference in winning and losing today was, he said: “Well, I mean, I had a lot of chances in the second set. I think at 4-2 I had a love-40 game on his serve which I didn’t win.

“Those moments, the match can turn around, especially against Rafa. But I think I picked up my level at 4-5 down in the second set again and then it all went well. I’m happy to be in the final.”

Nadal gave props to Zverev during his virtual chat with the media. Well, I think he’s playing great. He won two straight tournaments and played well here again. He’s in the final serving huge,” he said.

Around the AccorHotels Arena

Unseeded Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada and Hubert Hurkacz from Poland reached their first doubles final in just their second tournament together after defeating World No. 11 and No. 4 seeds Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo from Brazil, 6-2, 1-6, 10-5.

After a first-round win over French wild cards Adrian Mannarino and Gilles Simon, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz beat in succession No. 1 seeds Robert Farah of Colombia and Horacio Zeballos from Argentina, No. 7 seeds John Peers of Australia and Michael Venus from New Zealand, and Kubot and Melo.

In Sunday’s final, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz will face No. 2 seeds Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares from Brazil, who defeated No. 8 seeds Jurgen Melzer of Austria and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France, 6-3, 7-6 (4).

What they’re saying

• If Daniil Medvedev wasn’t such a fine tennis player, perhaps he’d make a great mathematician. Here, in this video courtesy of the Rolex Paris Masters, Medvedev breaks down the math of his semifinal victory over Milos Raonic.

• Tennis TourTalk asked Milos Raonic to reflect upon positive takeaways from playing this week’s Rolex Paris Masters as well as the rest of his season: Well, I’m sure I’ll be able to look back through this week and many other weeks. There is a lot of things I’m doing much better than where I left off, even playing well in Australia at the beginning of the year, but I think I have made good steps forward,” he said.

“I have, even in a year that’s now been really tough to move up the ranking, given myself a chance to move up quite well without which, you know, some parts of the season that would have probably been more beneficial to me on grass and so forth.”

So, all those kinds of things are positives. Each week, I have been winning at least some matches and giving myself an opportunity to continue through tournaments, playing more and more matches, get back into the swing of consecutive matches, back-to-back matches, winning tough matches, coming back the next day being able to play well without any physical issues. 

“All those kinds of things I’m going to have a lot of positives to take away from and a lot of very motivating things to push me into the next training block and for the start of next year.”

Click here for Saturday’s results