Nitto ATP Finals – Day 1 & 2

Group “Tokyo ’70” – Day 2
Daniil Medvedev d. Alexander Zverev    6-3, 6-4    [1:29 h]
Just eight days after their final in Paris-Bercy, they met again – this time Medvedev won much easier. The beginning indicated it would be very long affair, albeit the second game was short (Zverev committed three double faults in a row, risking the 2nd serve only at 30/0). Medvedev won a titanic third game saving five break points, one of them after a punishing 29-stroke rally, and that game cost them both a lot of energy. Actually until 5:2 they both were playing breathing heavily, being involved in several gruelling rallies. Then the pace was accelerated, the Russian won the easiest the most important games, serving both sets out. “When you play a Top 10 opponent [in the] first match of the tournament, you have to be there all the time,” Medvedev said. “That is what I managed to do, actually. I just lost one service [game] in the first game of the match. Finally, when you win it, you can say, ‘Okay, that was just the start.’ I am happy about my [performance].” At 4:3 (30-all) in the 2nd set, he decided to hit an underarm 1st serve and won the point, I think it’s been the first serve of this type in the tournament history.
Average serve speed: Medvedev 209/150 kph, Zverev 201/154 kph… Total points: 73-58
Novak Djokovic d. Diego Schwartzman    6-3, 6-2    [1:18 h]
Schwartzman – the first Argentinian in “Masters” since 2013 (Juan Martin del Potro) and the shortest player (around 170 cm) since 1980 (Harold Solomon). Before the tournament I thought that each player would beat all others except Schwartzman, especially on the assumption he would go to the group he has landed. I thought about him not only as a good material for a 0-3 (0-6) record, but also one of the worst game ratios in the tournament history, similar to Alberto Berasategui in 1994. His opening match confirmed my pondering. Djokovic played just a decent match, but it was enough to get an easy win. His main strategy of late, to propose backhand dropshots on a regular basis, didn’t work at all. “Everything is difficult against [Novak]. I think what he’s doing when he’s playing his best, he’s moving the ball… to every single point on [the] court,” said Schwartzman. “It’s very difficult to see or to know what he’s going to do and [to] try to make good points… He has a lot of talent when he has the chance to move the ball.”
Average serve speed: Djokovic 194/165 kph, Schwartzman 171/138 kph… Total points: 59-40
Group “London ’20” – Day 1
Rafael Nadal d. Andrey Rublev    6-3, 6-4    [1:17 h]
I badly wanted to watch their second, yet first match in three years because Rublev has improved a lot since Nadal trashed him in the US Open quarterfinal. I wondered how a potentially crucial combination ‘Nadal’s FH vs Rublev’s BH’ would look like. It wasn’t important at all, the Russian began the match serving very poorly (0 of 6 first serves in his opening game which he held). He found himself 3-6, 0:2 quickly, being frustrated, and basically since that moment, the 34-year-old Nadal was only focused to hold a few times more. “It’s important to start well, of course, for the confidence, because winning [in] straight sets helps,” Nadal said. “The serve tonight was very important. I played solidly with my serve. I didn’t suffer much, and that helps [me] to play more relaxed on the return. That’s what I did.”
Average serve speed: Nadal 195/164 kph, Rublev 197/151 kph… Total points: 63-49
Dominic Thiem d. Stefanos Tsitsipas    7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3    [2:17 h]
Unusual situation that the first round robin match was a repeat of the final a year before. When they met in 2019 Tsitsipas won in three sets, this time more luck was on the Austrian side. Thiem came back from a *1:4 deficit in the tie-break serving very well then, as well as at 4:5 – he obtained four quick points behind the serve. Having the first set point, he lobbed Tsitsipas, even though the Greek had been in a good position to finish the point at the net with his forehand. Only one break in each of the following two sets separated them: at 1-all in the 2nd and 1:0 in the 3rd set. Quite interesting and crucial was a six-deuce game when Thiem held to lead 4:1; the Austrian served three aces out-wide on deuce court, but on ad-court he made three very similar errors trying to finish the points with aggressive backhands down the line directly behind returns of the Greek… Thiem has been very solid at tight moments especially in the past two years. I’ve noticed that at his ~60% of first serve in, he increases to ~80% at the most important moments, certainly it helps to win tight situations more often than lose them. His tie-breaks against all the best players in the world are very telling, he has won ‘longer tie-breaks’ against them all: Djokovic (12/10, 7/5); Nadal (8/6); Federer (9/7, 13/11); Medvedev (9/7, 7/5); Zverev (8/6); Tsitsipas (8/6, 7/5); Schwartzman (9/7, 8/6). Admittedly he hasn’t won a tie-break against Rublev yet, but he defeated the Russian saving a match point on serve. “Today was a little bit different [to last year]… [There were] only two breaks in the whole match,” said Thiem. “I think the conditions are pretty fast here, so I am super happy with my win. Every win against a Top 10 player at the Nitto ATP Finals is something special and every win against Stefanos is something special, because he is such a great player. He is established and has won so many big titles already.”
Average serve speed: Thiem 193/164 kph, Tsitsipas 205/164 kph… Total points:  101-96
Group Tokyo ’70
1. Novak Djokovic – 13th appearance (5 titles)
4. Daniil Medvedev – 2nd appearance
7. Alexander Zverev – 4th appearance (1 title)
9. Diego Schwartzman – debut
Group London ’20
2. Rafael Nadal – 10th appearance (6 times skipped!)
3. Dominic Thiem – 5th appearance
6. Stefanos Tsitsipas – 2nd appearance (1 title)
8. Andrey Rublev – debut
13. Denis Shapovalov (alternate)
No. 5 – Federer, withdrew (knee injury)

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