All’s Well That Ends Well For Medvedev In Turin Thriller

Daniil Medvedev (photo: Stefano Guidi/Getty Images for ATP)

TURIN/WASHINGTON, November 16, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The blockbuster match between reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev of Russia and 2018 winner Alexander Zverev of Germany lived up to its billing and highlighted Red Group play at the Pala Alpitour in Turin Tuesday.

In their 11th career meeting – all on hard courts and for the third straight year in the Nitto ATP Finals – Medvedev broke the tie with a 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (6) victory in two hours and 35 minutes. It was his seventh straight win in the year-end finale.

The No. 2 seed Medvedev, who came in having won his last four meetings against No. 3 seed Zverev, including twice this year in the semifinals of the ATP Cup in Melbourne last January and in the semifinals of the Rolex Paris Masters earlier this month, broke the German in his first service game. Medvedev made it hold up as he won the 37-minute first set 6-3 in back of five aces and 11 winners. The Russian saved all three break points he faced.

Then, Zverev fought off two break points during a 14-point opening game in the second set and held serve with his sixth and seventh aces. With Medvedev 46-4 lifetime when winning the first set, he pressured Zverev with another break point in the seventh game, but the German escaped with a hold after he struck his 10th ace. After a series of mostly easy holds, the hour-long set went to a tie break, which Zverev won 7-3 after Medvedev got rattled by a foot fault called against him on the third point of the tie-breaker. It was on to a deciding set and anyone’s guess how this would turn out.

In the final set, Medvedev saved the only break point at 5-all (30-40) as Zverev hit a forehand long. Then, as the ensuing tie break unfolded, Zverev saved a pair of match points at 6-4 and 6-5. However, Medvedev stepped up and gained a third match point at 7-6 after he hit a fifth-shot forehand winner. Finally, he closed out the win as Zverev netted a backhand return that ended a seven-shot rally.

Medvedev struck 14 aces, hit 29 winners and made 34 unforced errors compared with 18 aces, 39 winners and 40 unforced errors by Zverev. Medvedev saved all four break points he faced and converted one of four against Zverev.

Afterward, during his on-court interview, Medvedev called his 11th meeting with Zverev a memorable match. “Definitely, one of the matches to remember,” he said.

“When you win 8-6 in the tie-break in the third, it was 4-2 for him so I was like okay, he serves a few aces it’s done. I made it 6-4 and I was like okay, that’s my moment now. It’s back to 6-6, you get really tight, because I wanted to make a brave move on the 6-5 second serve and volley, didn’t work out at all.”

The 6-foot-6-inch Russian won last year’s Nitto ATP Finals round-robin match in straight sets and Zverev’s last win was two years ago during round robin.

“Sometimes, that’s how tennis is,” Medvedev said. “You just try to do your best. Sometimes, luck is on your side, sometimes not. Sometimes, it’s more than just luck. I just try to do my best and I’m really happy the past seven matches went in my favor.”

Zverev remained optimistic about his chances of advancing out of group play along with Medvedev when he spoke about it during his press conference. “To be honest, in my personal opinion I think we both have a very good chance of passing the group,” he said.

“This is not like any other tournament. I am in the tournament still, I still have a chance to win the tournament and this is what I’m thinking to myself. Of course, I wanted to win, there’s no doubt about it. I lost 8-6 in a third-set tie break. But the tournament isn’t done yet.”

Berrettini withdraws, Medvedev declared winner of Red Group

Late Tuesday afternoon, No. 6 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy withdrew from the Nitto ATP Finals due to a left oblique injury he suffered during his opening round-robin match against No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev on Sunday evening. His place in the Red Group was assumed by first alternate Jannik Sinner of Italy, who was scheduled to face No. 8 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland Tuesday evening. Hurkacz defeated Sinner 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the Miami Open title match earlier this season.

Berrettini revealed his news in an Instagram post.


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A post shared by Matteo Berrettini (@matberrettini)

The World No. 7 Berrettini retired against Zverev after trailing 7-6 (7), 1-0. His withdrawal announcement came after a workout session earlier Tuesday.

“I’ve finally decided my #Nitto ATP Finals end here … I’m devastated and I never thought I’d have to give up the most important tennis event ever held in Italy like this,” Berrettini stated.

Thank you for your continued support and the thousands of messages you sent me.”

As a result of Berrettini’s withdrawal, No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev becomes the winner of the Red Group after beating both Hurkacz and Zverev.

“It’s sad. At the end of the day, he’s at home, he’s playing in front of the Italian fans, he’s playing one of the biggest tournaments in the world in Italy,” Zverev said. “I think for him the feeling that he’s having is incredible. So hopefully he’ll be back here next year.”

Substitute Sinner wins Nitto ATP Finals debut

Italy’s Jannik Sinner was the perfect substitute for fellow Italian Matteo Berrettini and certainly had the support of the Turin crowd’s support, many whom yelled “Jannik, Jannik,” throughout his one-hour and 25-minute match against Hubert Hurkacz of Poland. From first ball to last ball, Sinner played fearless tennis and won his Nitto ATP Finals debut 6-2, 6-2.

Sinner broke Hurkacz for an early 2-1 lead as the match began, then consolidated it following an 11-and-a-half minute 14-point game in which he saved three break points. Soon, Sinner broke again for a 4-1 advantage and won it 6-2 on his fourth set point. Throughout, Sinner took advantage of 14 unforced errors by Hurkacz and was boosted by the support of the largely Italian crowd.

The second set followed a similar pattern as the first. Sinner broke Hurkacz early and consolidated for a 3-1 lead. Then, he broke his opponent, again, for a 5-2 advantage after winning eight straight points. Serving for the match, Sinner won on his first match-point opportunity after Hurkacz hit a fourth-shot, forehand return long. The two competitors shared a warm, collegial hug at the net.

Sinner, who became the youngest player to win a Nitto ATP Finals debut match since 2000, rose to the occasion by hitting 17 winners and converting four of six break-point chances. He outpointed Hurkacz 68-48 and took advantage of 28 unforced errors by his opponent.

“In one way, it’s a highlight playing here, but in another way it’s not the way I wanted to play,” Sinner said during a post-match interview on court. “Especially when Matteo is pulling out. He’s been unlucky so many times in his career. I wish all the best. I am playing for him in the tournament because he deserves more than me to be here. So, I gave it my best.

“I knew around 5 [o’clock] that I would play. I was ready to go on court,” Sinner added. “It is an incredible feeling playing here in Italy with thousands of people cheering for you and I am trying my best. I just enjoyed the moment. I played well and felt good in the warm up. It was an incredible match today.”

Granollers and Zeballos advance to semifinals

No. 1 seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both from Croatia, were upset by No. 4 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, 6-4, 7-6 (4), in an hour and 41 minutes, in their fourth meeting this season and first on hard courts.

Mektic and Pavic, now 60-12 with nine tour-level titles this season, carried a 2-1 lead into Tuesday’s match with Granollers and Zeballos. They won their last meeting in four sets in the Wimbledon final on grass.

However, Granollers and Zeballos (2-0), who saved four match points in their match tie break win over Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Filip Polasek of Slovakia on Sunday, beat Mektic and Pavic (1-1) on their third match point opportunity as Granollers closed out the victory with a volley winner. Points were even with 67 for both teams.

The Spanish/Argentine duo, who improved to 26-11 this season with two Masters 1000 titles, clinched their group and advanced to the Nitto ATP Finals semifinals after Dodig and Polasek defeated  Kevin Krawietz of Germany and Horia Tecau of Romania, 7-6 (2), 7-5 in an hour and 42 minutes Tuesday evening.

Tuesday’s Nitto ATP Finals results

Wednesday’s Nitto ATP Finals order of play

By the numbers

Four of the six different Nitto ATP Finals champions in the last six years are in this year’s field, which ties a tournament record for most consecutive different champions from 1974-79:

Novak Djokovic (2015), Andy Murray (2016), Grigor Dimitrov (2017), Alexander Zverev (2018), Stefanos Tsitsipas (2019), Daniil Medvedev (2020).

Guillermo Vilas (1974), Ilie Nastase (1975), Manuel Orantes (1976), Jimmy Connors (1977), John McEnroe (1978), Bjorn Borg (1979).

“Quotable …”

“I think these are the moments that we are practicing for, that we are living for: to be here and to enjoy this atmosphere, to play great tennis and for the spectators to enjoy. [All] I could do my best today, I did and I’m really happy.”

Andrey Rublev of Russia, World No. 5, following his Monday night victor over World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.

“I did have four or five practice sessions prior to [Sunday’s] match. I thought it was enough and I felt OK on the court. Match-like situations are different. Somebody calls your score, you feel the pressure. So, it took me some time to adjust. The court, balls and altitude are definitely affecting the conditions. They’re really quite different to what we had in Paris-Bercy. So, serve is a big advantage. If you’re serving well, you go through your service games comfortably and you apply pressure on your opponent’s service games. That’s what happened particularly for me in the second set. I’m really happy with the way I played in the second set. I made him play and serve extremely well, I hit my spots. I hope I can get that kind of rhythm and keep on going.”

Novak Djokovic of Serbia, World No. 1, on adjusting to the lightning-fast courts at the Pala Alpitour, in an interview with Tennis Channel.