Nitto ATP Finals (London) – Day 3 & 4

Group “Tokyo ’70” – Day 4
Daniil Medvedev d. Novak Djokovic    6-3, 6-3    [1:21 h]
Very disappointing match. I had an impression that Djokovic wasn’t particularly interested once he was broken at 3-all in the opener. Medvedev won seven (!) straight games in total, he even led (30/15) at 3:0* in the 2nd set, so Djokovic’s utter devastation could happen. The Serb claimed 2 out of his 5 titles in the season-ending championships, despite losing a group match, he is fully aware that this defeat may mean nothing. I don’t know, but cannot exclude that he didn’t want to hypothetically lose a tight match to Medvedev facing another “Russian tower” Zverev on Friday… It’s rather untypical situation for the formula of the event, that after four days no mathematics is involved in group scenarios leading to the semifinals: Thiem & Medvedev are already through as group leaders regardless of their next matches. In the semifinals they will face the winners of Djokovic-Zverev and Nadal-Tsitsipas matches. “To be completely honest, I am sure he didn’t play his best today. But still, it happens for everybody,” Medvedev said. “I always say the Big Three are the champions because it happens less for them than for other players. It is still tough to beat them, even on their bad days so I am really happy about the win. I am feeling good [and] confident right now… I knew I had to take my chances [and] serve good.”  The best player in the world won just 1 of 8 BH dropshot attempts (the only time when played it cross-court).
Average serve speed: Medvedev 203/167 kph, Djokovic 195/161 kph… Total points: 70-54
Alexander Zverev d. Diego Schwartzman    6-3, 4-6, 6-3    [2:11 h]
A meeting between the tallest and the shortest player of the event (~30 cm difference) looked like I expected with one significant exception – I didn’t think that Zverev would lose a set, especially leading with a break. It happened in the 2nd set; he led 3:1* (deuce) on the way to repeat his recent easy victory over Schwartzman in the Köln final (6-2, 6-1) when played a nonchalant forehand return which landed behind the baseline. In the first two sets I was thinking the German wanted to win that match in a 80-90% mode which in my opinion efficiently Djokovic applied two days ago. It’s not easy against someone like the Argentinian with his “never say die” attitude. In the 3rd set Zverev had to be fully concentrated from the start, and it paid off at 2-all when he played his best tennis, breaking Schwartzman with difficult backhand volley. Another break at 5:3 came after Schwartzman’s casual errors. “It was much better than on Monday,” said Zverev in an on-court interview. “Diego is a very difficult player. He deserves to be here… There are no easy matches, but I am happy to get the win. I am happy to give myself a chance to go to the semi-finals and I am excited for Friday… is going to be the most difficult match you can have here against Novak.”
Average serve speed: Zverev 215/153 kph, Schwartzman 169/138 kph… Total points: 95-80
Group “London ’20” – Day 3
Stefanos Tsitsipas d. Andrey Rublev    6-1, 4-6, 7-6(6)    [1:55 h]
The first, 19-minute set it was a joke. Rublev played like a novice, perhaps his worst set in the past two years. The Russian couldn’t play any worse, nevertheless his straight set loss hung in the air as he faced double break point at 3-all in the 2nd set – the second BP he saved with a forehand winner on the line. He survived a five BP game to lead 2:1 in the decider, and led 6:5 (30/0) when the ball was in play, but Tsitsipas forced an error and with the help of the serve obtained another three points. The Greek led 5:2* in the tie-break, at 5-all they both played their best tennis from the baseline – Rublev won the 25-stroke point, but he was running much more in it and oxygen debt cost him a double fault with his second serve netted (133 kph) much below his average speed. After the change of ends Rublev still couldn’t regulate breathing and made two simple errors. They have played three tight deciding 3rd set against each other thus far, and the Greek has survived it for the first time. For the tournament it’d be better if the Russian won; now he’s eliminated so his last round robin match will have an exhibition character. “It was an unbelievable match from both sides. We produced some incredible tennis,” Tsitsipas said in an on-court interview. “The relief at the very end of putting all that effort and all that fight on the court paid off. I am very happy that I showed determination and a willingness to not give up when he had match point. It came easier when he was up 6/5, but then I produced some really good tennis and that helped me take the win.” Rublev admitted he was close to lose the match 1-6, 3-6.
Average serve speed: Tsitsipas 203/166 kph, Rublev 199/144 kph… Total points: 92-82
Dominic Thiem d. Rafael Nadal   7-6(7), 7-6(4)    [2:25 h]
High quality encounter, the best 2-0  match of the season in my opinion. From the beginning they both were playing better than on Sunday in the opening matches… Nadal was very aggressive, he displayed alacrity to apply serve-and-volley in every game. No break of serve, in the tie-break the Spaniard led 5:2 on serve when Thiem’s inside-out forehand found the sideline. Similarly to his first ’round robin’ match, Thiem erased a three-point deficit, then he saved two set points with solid ground-strokes (5:6, 6:7) and clinched the set after 72 minutes (with his third FH winner in the tie-break) even though his first serve deserted him at the end. In the 2nd set there where two consecutive breaks, the first for Nadal. Thiem had a triple match point at 5:4, but Nadal saved it quickly, winning the second point with a S&V action behind his 2nd serve (his winning FH stop-volley touched the net-cord). Thiem didn’t dwell on wasting chances and played another excellent tie-break. He has now won 6 out of 8 tie-breaks against Rafa (including the last five sets he has won against him!). “Indoors and [on] hard courts, it was probably one of the better matches I have ever played,” said Thiem. “It came very close to last year’s match against Novak here. [That was] also [a] second group match, which is probably the best three-setter I have ever played. Today came very close to that match and now the goal is to enjoy this victory and to maintain that level until Thursday.”
Average serve speed: Thiem 193/164 kph, Nadal 191/161 kph… Total points: 86-81
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