Medvedev’s Mental Strength Pushes Him To Paris Title

WASHINGTON/PARIS, November 8, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev are no strangers when it comes to playing each other. They’ve met six previous times – all on hard courts – and it’s been a one-sided rivalry that has favored Zverev. Until maybe now.

In a battle between Top 10 stars, the World No. 5 Medvedev and No. 7 Zverev met for the seventh time Sunday afternoon in the championship final at the Rolex Paris Masters in Bercy. One thing they proved: it’s important to play every point because a match can turn at any time. It also showed what a tremendous mental and physical achievement winning a Masters 1000 title can be.

Down a set, Medvedev rallied for a satisfying 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Zverev in two hours and seven minutes that was punctuated by lengthy rallies, Medvedev’s reliance on his second serve when winning points on his first serve failed him, and, ironically, ended in a thud on a double fault by Zverev.

The Russian’s fifth straight victory was improved his win-loss record to 23-10 in 2020. It ended Zverev’s 12-match winning streak and dropped his record to 29-10. Zverev was playing in his third straight final after winning back-to-back tournaments in Cologne.

Zverev brought a 5-1 head-to-head advantage onto Court Central inside a nearly-empty AccorHotels Arena, making his seventh career ATP Masters 1000 final appearance. Medvedev finally reached his first ATP Tour final of the season in his second-to-last tournament of 2020.

Throughout the week, both were impressive en route to Sunday title match. Each had lost only one set, both in the third round. However, Medvedev produced when it mattered most in his fourth Masters 1000 final.

By winning, Medvedev became the fourth Russian player to capture the Rolex Paris Masters title, joining previous winners Marat Safin (2002, 2004), Nikolay Davydenko (2006) and Karen Khachanov (2018). It was also his eighth career ATP Tour title.

After being on serve through the first 11 games of the opening set like target practice – and with both players getting more than 80 percent of their first serves in play and winning more than 80 percent of their first-serve points – Zverev gained three break points and broke Medvedev on his third one to win the first set after Medvedev sailed a forehand long that ended a five-shot rally.

Then, at 1-all in the next set, Zverev fought off four break points – the only ones he’d faced – and bagged a 22-point marathon game that went to deuce eight times and lasted more than 15 minutes. However, Medvedev broke Zverev to go ahead 5-4, then consolidated the break at love with his 13th ace to send the match to a decider. The Russian won 13 of the last 14 points in the middle set.

What began as a vigorous two-set battle, from the middle of the second to the first three games of the third, changed as Medvedev went into lockdown mode. He changed the tempo of the match to suit him and it made a difference.

“At the end of the second set, I was tired; I was dead,” Zverev admitted to Tennis TourTalk during his virtual post-match press conference. “The third set was always going to be very difficult for me. I had a very extremely physical match against (Adrian) Mannarino (in the third round), which wore me down a lot. I didn’t have quite the energy to finish it off.”

At the start of the third set, Medvedev promptly broke Zverev at love go up 1-0. By this time, his first serve had abandoned him and he relied on his second serve to get him out of trouble. Soon, the two combatants engaged in another lengthy and grinding battle – lasting more than 10 minutes – in which Medvedev relentlessly fought back four break points to consolidate the break, putting it away with a service winner to go ahead 2-0.

In the third game, Medvedev promptly broke Zverev, again, when the German hit an easy forehand wide of its mark, and after another hold, it was 4-0. The end appeared near for both players as the match reached the two-hour mark. With Zverev serving to stay in the match, down 1-5, he double-faulted on the second championship point. Suddenly, Medvedev’s first title win of the season was his to savor.

“I knew that I had to win in two sets,” Zverev said. “Once I lost the second set, I knew it was going to be difficult, especially against him who is not somebody who is very wild. You know, he’s very composed. He’s gonna make you run, he’s gonna make you run for every point. Yeah, it was difficult at the end.”

Medvedev, who has been very successful in winning three-set matches this year (seven of 10), finished with 14 aces and won 71 percent (59 of 83) of his service points (including 21 of 35 on his second serve). He also garnered 65 percent of his second-serve return points, 10 percentage points higher than his season average. Overall, Medvedev outpointed Zverev 101-84. It was the sixth time this year he’s come back to win after losing the first set.

During a brief post-match interview on court, Medvedev candidly admitted coming into the week he hadn’t played as good as he’s capable of – as reflected by no title victories. So, he talked about it with his wife, Daria, and coach Gilles Cervara, who continued to encourage him.

“It is great. I am really happy,” he said. “I don’t show this after the match, but I am really happy to win matches. Before the tournament, I was not in my best form, playing not so bad with zero finals this year. I was complaining to my wife like, ‘Oh my god, I don’t have the level. I don’t even have one final. I am playing so bad.'”

Medvedev said he’s always happy to win meaningful matches, especially to win his third Masters 1000 title in 15 months (following earlier triumphs in Cincinnati and Shanghai last year).

“Finally, I am the winner of Bercy, a tournament that I love,” he said with a big smile hidden by his mask.

Later on, during his virtual press conference with his mask removed – and still smiling – Medvedev conveyed his pleasure with the final outcome. “After the first set, I didn’t think I would win it because he was playing really good,” he said. “But I knew I had to stay in the match. … I’m really happy with how I’m performing with my mental strength.” 

Auger-Aliassime/Hurkacz win first ATP Tour doubles title

A week ago, Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada and Hubert Hurkacz from Poland couldn’t get into the Erste Bank Open draw in Vienna. This week in Paris, they’ve won their first ATP Masters 1000 doubles championship at the Rolex Paris Masters and first ATP Tour title together. What a difference a week has made for the 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime and 23-year-old Hurkacz.

Together, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz saved five championship points during a second-set tiebreak, then scored the final seven points of the match tiebreak to triumph over No. 2 seeds Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares from Brazil, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (7), 10-2, in one hour and 52 minutes. It was Auger-Aliassime’s first ATP Tour title in either singles or doubles.

Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz faced a championship point at 5-6, a deciding point in the second set and rallied from 3-6 and 6-7 down in the second-set tie break en route to turning the title match around. The match tiebreak served as a culmination of their successful week, which saw them upset the first, fourth and seventh seeds just to reach the final.

The title victory improved the Canadian/Polish duo to 6-1. They played for the first time earlier this year in Rotterdam and reached the quarterfinals. By lifting the trophy in Bercy, they earned 1000 FedEx Doubles Ranking points and will share 91,665 euros in prize money. Meanwhile, despite the loss, Pavic and Soares collected 600 points and split 69,000 euros and are headed to the Nitto ATP Finals in London next week as the third-seeded team.

During an on-court interview, Hurkacz said, “It is huge [to win this title]. Felix played unbelievable. Bruno and Mate are great doubles players and they played unreal.

“We had no chances throughout the sets. We kept ourselves in the tiebreaks and we are so happy to win.

“We didn’t expect before this week that we were going to play on Sunday. [I am] a bit surprised, but happy to finish the season like this.” 

Auger-Aliassime added: “I enjoy my time with him and I have to say Hubert is a really nice person and he has a really good heart. He gives me everything out there; he has fun and he is always smiling.

“It is a joy to play with him and be around him. We have known each other since we were juniors a little bit. … This week was so unexpected. We started with a great match and just kept playing better and better. … Everything went on our side this week.”