November 22, 2020
Daniil Medvedev completed a truly remarkable week to lift the ATP Tour Finals trophy in London.
He beat the three best players in the world to announce his arrival at the very top of the game.
No one in tennis seems to have Daniil Medvedev’s staying power right now.
Opponents think they have him defeated. Then they realise they are sadly mistaken.
Daniil beat Dominic Thiem 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 for what turned out to be an emphatic victory once he had finally worn his adversary down.
Both players had beaten the great Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal earlier in the tournament. It was definitely the right final.
And now the incredible Medvedev has beaten all three players ranked above him in the space of a few days.
What an achievement!
Daniil reflected: ‘One of my best achievements ever, for sure. Thanks to my team, my wife and family.’
‘Dominic, your name is already written in tennis history.’
After the Austrian’s triumph at Flushing Meadows, that was true enough.
Thiem said: ‘Of course I’m disappointed but also proud of my performance all week. Danny was amazing though, congratulations.’
Maybe the occasion got to Medvedev slightly at first. Maybe Thiem was just too good until the second-set breaker – particularly on his first serve.
At any rate, we didn’t quite see the fearless, aggressive, free-flowing Daniil we’d enjoyed all week until he was really fighting for survival.
Then what an explosion of spontaneous brilliance we witnessed from the game’s most unpredictable new genius!
He has the heart of a lion and tennis should embrace his arrival in the big-time.
Domi has had an incredible year. First the US Open title, now runner-up at the year-end finals.
As much as Medvedev, the Austrian is heralding a new era. But he still has plenty to prove at Wimbledon.
That’s the beauty of it. Medvedev and Thiem leave London now and return in seven months for a very different tournament at the All England Club.
It was inevitable that there would be talk of a changing of the guard at the end of these finals.
After all, neither man had won the ATP year-end tournament before.
And of course they are both still relatively young and still have so much more to give.
But London in November has often provided a platform for young champions.
Alexander Zverev and then Stefanos Tsitsipas took the title. We thought they would take tennis by storm the following year. But both have yet to win a Grand Slam.
Becoming the real deal with regular major triumphs takes time.
That’s no disrespect to Zverev and Tsitsipas, who have still become rock stars of tennis.
But there’s something different about Medvedev and Thiem. They seem more complete. For both, 2020 is the start of something even bigger.
Now Medvedev and Thiem have a date with destiny at Wimbledon 2021.
Will they rise to the challenge? We truly believe the answer is yes. It’s just perfect that they’re reaching their peak going into 2021.
The same year at least one all-time-great, Roger Federer may bid a fond farewell to the tour.
This final started so well for Thiem. He deserved the first set overall, but proved lucky on the final point.
His forehand clipped the net and completely wrong-footed Medvedev as it flew past him.
After a moment’s frustration, Daniil managed to smile and tell Thiem it wasn’t his fault – which of course it wasn’t.
That was a lovely moment of sportsmanship and camaraderie. It also showed us Medvedev is growing up fast.
But sometimes you need a bit of devil to turn the tide. As the second set began, we watched to see whether the Russian could steel himself and throw Thiem off balance somehow.
It didn’t quite happen that way for a while, although Medvedev did fend off several break points to edge ahead 4-3.
But that’s about as tough as it got for Thiem until the tie-break.
Then Medvedev simply demolished Domi with seven straight points from 0-2 down.
It had taken a while, but the real Daniil was now on court and back on terms. It was very much game on.
Medvedev had three successive break points in the third game of the decider. He couldn’t convert any of them as Thiem dug in to nudge ahead.
But in the fifth game, Daniil did indeed find that breakthrough he was looking for, after a titanic struggle veered this way and that.
Thiem was tiring and simply made too many mistakes to find a fresh foothold.
Medvedev, meanwhile, went from strength to strength. And that’s what we expect to see in 2021 too – including Wimbledon.