PARIS/WASHINGTON, November 7, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)
Daniil Medvedev likes to win, no matter whether he’s engaged in PlayStation or playing tennis. He’s pretty good at both, actually.
The World No. 2 and defending Rolex Paris Masters champion is back in the title match at Bercy, again. Last year, he beat Alexander Zverev to capture the Paris crown. This time, Medvedev will face World No. 1 Novak Djokovic Sunday afternoon in the last ATP Masters 1000 final of the season after sweeping through four opponents – Ilya Ivashka, Sebastian Korda, Hugo Gaston and Zverev.
“It’s definitely going to be a competitive match where both of us will really want to win,” Medvedev said after easily dispatching World No. 4 and fourth seed Zverev, 6-2, 6-2, Saturday afternoon in the semifinal round after Djokovic advanced with a 3-6, 6-0, 7-6 (5) victory over No. 7 seed Hubert Hurkacz, which clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking for the 34-year-old 20-time major champion. Medvedev is through to his sixth ATP Masters 1000 final, a winner in four of his first five, while Djokovic will be appearing in his 54th and has won 36.
“When you win 6-2, 6-2, definitely don’t need to change anything,” Medvedev said during his post-match press conference after beating Zverev. At one point in the semifinal, Medvedev had won 10 of 11 games in going ahead 6-2, 5-1. “Of course, the score doesn’t reflect exactly what happened on the court.”
— ATP Tour (@atptour) November 6, 2021
Medvedev saved a couple of break points after being down 2-1 (15-40) in the opening set. He held, then broke Zverev to go ahead 3-2 in the next game and never really was threatened afterward by the Tokyo Olympics gold medalist and a winner in 28 of his last 30 matches before losing to Medvedev. “Sometimes, in tennis, it’s a matter of putting one ball on the line, one winner on the line, it’s enough to get you a break and maybe gain some confidence. In the beginning of the match it’s really important,” he said.
“So, I think the crucial point of the match was this hold and the break after because that’s when I gained some confidence. I started to read his game a little bit better, to see what I need to do to try to win the point.
“That’s what I tried to use throughout the match. Today, it worked pretty well. We had a lot of matches Sascha [Zverev], and definitely, not every match is going to be like this.”
1️⃣ match away from defending 🏆
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) November 6, 2021
Going into Sunday’s final against the top seed Djokovic, there’s a lot of shared history between the Serbian and the No. 2 seed Medvedev. They’ve played each other nine times and Djokovic leads 5-4. However, Medvedev has won four of the last six, including the most recent head-to-head in this year’s US Open final, won by Medvedev 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. It kept Djokovic from winning all four majors in the same calendar year.
— Daniil Medvedev (@DaniilMedwed) September 13, 2021
Seven weeks later, Djokovic is back, rested and recharged – and he’s been impressive in earlier wins over Marton Fucsovics, Taylor Fritz and Hurkacz. (He advanced over Gaël Monfils by walkover in the second round.)
“Head-to-head at this level it’s not that important anymore unless it’s like 8-0 or 10-0,” Medvedev said. “That’s when, okay, yeah, maybe he has the edge and he likes something about my game.
“When it’s kind of even, and even this year we are 1-all in head-to-head, both in [the] finals of Slams, it’s more these matches, every match help you tactically and mentally. So, for example, [the] Australian Open final helped me a lot to prepare better for [the] US Open.
“Of course, winning the US Open would give me, maybe, some tactical things I want to try to repeat or use against Novak. At the same time, again, we all know who Novak is. If he would not adapt to circumstances, he would not be where he is now. So, he’s defnitely going to try to change something, which I cannot know what it is he’s going to try to do. So, I’m going to try to think about this. And, yeah, that’s the game of tennis, sometimes.”
Highlights from the men’s singles final 👇 pic.twitter.com/hfP58Ilnio
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 12, 2021
Medvedev admits he knows that Djokovic will use the US Open loss to him as a motivator for the Paris final. “Against Novak, you know that actually he is going to want to beat you even more when you beat him. Let’s see how it goes,” he said.
Djokovic was asked about the last time he and Medvedev played at the US Open, during his post-match press conference after beating Hurkacz. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to turn the tables around this time, you know, learning from that experience in New York,” he said. “He’s been playing fantastic tennis. He’s back at his best, in the most important match, against Zverev. He’s not missing much and serving big. It seems like he’s finding his groove.”
Regardless of the outcome of the Paris final between Medvedev and Djokovic, there’s always a wide range of emotions when the Russian faces the Serbian. There’s a sense of competitiveness between them but also mutual respect. Off the court, they’re friends and both reside with their families in Monte Carlo when they’re not traveling the world on the ATP Tour.
The perfect finish to ATP Masters 1000 play this year 👌
— ATP Tour (@atptour) November 6, 2021
“When I was young, I would watch [Novak] on TV,” Medvedev, 25, recalled in press. “I remember the first encounter at Davis Cup (2017 first round against Serbia won by Djokovic). It was magical. I didn’t know what I was about to do in my career.
“There were high expectations, but you never know what you’re gonna do. So, I thought I have to seize the moment and enjoy and do everything to beat him. I had actually taken one set, and I was 3-0 up at one point.
“There were 5,000 people in the stadium cheering him. There were only two or three supporting me. That was actually funny,” Medvedev added. “Behind every match that we played, some he won; some I won. Most of the time he was No. 1 when I played him.
“So, it’s always a wide range of emotions when I play him. It’s a challenge. As I was asked before the tournament, ‘How do you anticipate a match with Novak?’ I said, ‘Well, we will see. If we manage to be in the finals together, that means that we will have played well, the two of us.’
“And this is the case, and I’m delighted to play him.”