November 21, 2020
Fearless Daniil Medvedev beat Rafael Nadal for the first time to reach the ATP showpiece in London.
It means a fascinating final against Domimic Thiem on Sunday evening.
A new ATP champion will lift the trophy before the tournament moves to Turin next year.
Nadal will know he should really be taking on Thiem instead. He served for the match in the second set but didn’t win a point as Medvedev ran riot.
Daniil explained: ‘I felt really strange at 5-4 down. I decided to change some small things and go for it a little more. I’m really happy about it.
‘Dominic Thiem is playing amazing right now. He has won his first Grand Slam and I’ll see him tomorrow.’
It should be a scintillating occasion. All the matches have been so good in the English capital.
The first set quickly became an uphill struggle for Nadal. Medvedev put pressure on the Spaniard’s serve and couldn’t miss with his own.
Indeed it was half an hour before the Russian failed to land a first serve.
Meanwhile Nadal seemed to flirt with danger almost constantly, until he finally managed to establish a 4-3 lead.
Suddenly Medvedev’s accuracy and composure deserted him. He couldn’t buy a first serve for love nor money in that key eighth game.
Rafa pounced and foxed his opponent with all kinds of fiendish variations of pace and length.
Daniil doesn’t always respond well to a low slice and isn’t usually too fond of anything possessing more spin than pace.
For some spells of this semi-final, Nadal was deft at the net and crushing when he needed to be elsewhere.
In a flash, the spectacular Spaniard had won the first set 6-3. You wondered how had Rafa turned it round so quickly
After all, it was Medvedev who had wowed viewers with his huge looping returns of shots, big Rafa hits that had looked for all the world like certain Nadal winners.
The younger man often looked more threatening and very capable of notching that maiden win against the legend on the other side of the net. So it would eventually prove.
But we wondered at first whether Medvedev would lose heart once he fell a set behind. That suspicion couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Daniil picked himself up, dusted himself down and sprinkled some magic all over the court.
Nadal seemed taken aback and was broken when he double-faulted.
In the blink of an eye, Medvedev’s stunning array of strokeplay head earned him a 3-0 lead.
At last, he must have thought, some reward for his more daring, flamboyant tennis. He was firing down twice as many winners as Rafa.
Daniil had a point to go 5-1 up but missed his chance. Rafa sensed an opening once he held serve.
Medvedev attempted a drop shot that proved a mistake against a man with Nadal’s speed around court.
Perhaps foolishly, the younger man promptly tried another and was sent packing yet again.
Before we knew it, the second-set scores were level at 4-4. Medvedev knew he probably had to hold serve if he wanted to stay in the match. He couldn’t achieve that hold.
Daniil gambled on break point and moved in behind a volley. Nadal simply lobbed the taller man and soon served for the match.
Bizarrely, Rafa he didn’t win a point.
Medvedev threw caution to the wind and found stunning success just before it was too late.
This was precisely the kind of drama that promises to make Wimbledon 2021 so special too.
Great players in matches with more twists and turns than a best-selling thriller.
Pretty soon we were into a tie-break. Just the nail-biting conclusion the second set deserved.
Medvedev achieved the first mini-break with a searing forehand after a rally of more than twenty shots.
He went 4-1 up with a flamboyant leaping backhand winner.
Nadal fought back to 4-3 but soon Medvedev had three set points. Rafa saved the first.
But the Russian didn’t release his stranglehold this time, taking the breaker 7-4.
We realised we had a second incredible semi-final on our hands in one glorious day.
Only the second Friday at Wimbledon 2021 could surpass this.
As the deciding set wore on, however, magnificent Rafa began to run out of steam.
There have been no rest days this week. Every match has been super-intense.
Nadal made more and more unforced errors. Medvedev, in stark contrast, looked like he could run forever.
The new tennis adventurer won the victory he thoroughly deserved by closing out the final set 6-3.
Medvedev has been so gloriously uninhibited all week. He will provide the brilliant Thiem with a wonderful test.
If you thought the fireworks were over for another year, think again.
This final is going to be special.