With eight ATP Tour titles, including three ATP Masters 1000 triumphs, Daniil Medvedev entered his maiden Nitto ATP Finals championship match on Sunday with an already stellar list of career achievements. But after winning his biggest title to date at The O2 with a comeback win against Dominic Thiem, the Russian ranked his ninth final victory as the toughest match of his career.
The World No. 4 had already beaten the top two players in the FedEx ATP Rankings — Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal — en route to the championship match, but it was his win against the Austrian that the 24-year-old will be most proud of when he looks back on his title run in years to come.
”It was the toughest victory in my life because Dominic is a really tough player to play,” said Medvedev. “I think today he was at his best… That’s what I felt during the match. He was really close to winning it [in the] second set. I managed to stay there. I felt in the third set that I was really tired physically, for sure, but I felt like he started to miss some balls, he started to run a little bit slower because he was tired.
”To make Dominic tired in a three-set match, not a five-set, I think is a great achievement. All these small things, Dominic is playing as [of] today [as] one of the best players in the history [of the sport], not yet maybe by the titles and Grand Slams, but as I say, playing [with the form of] today.”
Medvedev’s win against Thiem made history at the Nitto ATP Finals. No player had defeated the top three players in a single edition of the tournament until Sunday. The Russian is only the fourth player, alongside Boris Becker (1994 Stockholm), Djokovic (2007 Montreal) and David Nalbandian (2007 Madrid), to achieve the feat at any event since the start of the ATP Tour in 1990.
”It is amazing [to beat the Top 3 here]… In the group I beat Novak, then Rafa in the semi-finals and Dominic in the final, [the] best players in the world… [It] means a lot,” said Medvedev. “[It] shows what I’m capable of when I’m playing good, when I’m feeling good mentally, physically. I know what I’m capable of. I just need to produce it more and more and hopefully more matches like this.”
Medvedev’s title run provided a fitting end to London’s 12-year reign as the host city of the season finale. The first edition held in London in 2009 was won by his countryman Nikolay Davydenko, who commentated on the 2020 final for Russian TV. Medvedev was happy to follow in his idol’s footsteps and end the last chapter of the event in London in the same way the story began at The O2: with a Russian holding the trophy.
”[Starting and finishing London with Russian champions] is super cool. I actually didn’t know, but Nikolay Davydenko commented on my match on Russian TV. He was a commentator during this match, and then I managed to talk to him just after the match,” said Medvedev.
”I was so surprised and so happy because he was one of my idols when I was growing up when I was actually already starting to play tennis not so bad, he was there and he was playing unbelievable.”
Just one month ago, Medvedev was far away from the form that saw him win 10 consecutive matches to sweep titles at the Rolex Paris Masters and the Nitto ATP Finals. The Moscow-native, who beat seven Top 10 players across the two events, arrived in Paris with just three wins from his past eight matches. Medvedev was also searching for his first trophy in 13 months.
”The tournaments I played before [Paris], they were not bad. I was playing good tennis… I lost to Reilly Opelka in St. Petersburg… Same in Vienna, playing Kevin Anderson, tough, tough opponent, which I had in Paris-Bercy… In Paris, I just was fighting. I was fighting in Vienna and St. Petersburg also and I knew [my level] might come back but maybe not this year. Finally, it was the case in Paris. I started playing better, started playing amazing, I should say.”
”When you have this sort of confidence, you just need to know how to keep it. And I think I do know how to do it, especially looking back at last year also where I had six finals in a row. So now the question is how to find it faster sometimes.”
Medvedev will be aiming to carry the confidence he has found over the past few weeks into the 2021 ATP Tour season. The Russian, alongside two-time runner-up Thiem, will be hoping to continue his successful run and put even greater pressure on Djokovic and Nadal at the top of the FedEx ATP Rankings.
Medvedev and Thiem became the first players since Roger Federer in 2010 to beat Djokovic and Nadal in the same edition of the Nitto ATP Finals this week. The question for both players will be whether they can gain similar success against the two dominant forces of the past decade next year.
”My level of game here, especially [in] the last two matches I won [was] just unbelievable. It can give me a lot for my future career,” said Medvedev. “To beat Dominic the way he played today and to manage to beat him is probably my best victory of my life. Not even talking about the title itself. I mean, to win the Nitto ATP Finals, being undefeated, honestly I know I can play good, but I would not believe it if you would tell me this before the tournament. So [this is] a great boost of confidence for all the Slams coming up and all the tournaments. Hopefully I can continue this way.”