LONDON – Near defeat, Daniil Medvedev suddenly changed tactics at the ATP final and collected the biggest title of his career by beating US Open champion Dominic Thiem 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 on Sunday. The fourth-ranked Medvedev became the first player to beat each of the men who were No. 1-3 in the season-ending championship – and only the fourth to do so at a tournament event in the last 30 years.
The comeback against No. 3 Thiem, which lasted more than 2 hours, added victories that Medvedev produced against No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the round-robin part of the tournament and No. 2 Rafael Nadal in Saturday’s semi-finals on an indoor hard court. Spectators were excluded due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Medvedev, 24, went 5-0 overall, a fair turn from a year ago when he went 0-3 at the ATP final. The tournament now ends its 1
Medvedev of Russia closed 2020 by going 10-0 in November, including seven wins against members of the Top 10. He had zero wins over Top 10 opponents over the previous 12 months.
Thiem’s defense and power from the baseline put him on top early, and strong operation in key moments allowed him to save the first eight break points he faced. But Medvedev, second to Nadal at the 2019 US Open, finally converted on his sixth break chance for the third set – and ninth in the match – by sneaking up behind a return, making a volley winner and going up 3-2.
It was probably because Medvedev never faced a breaking point the rest of the way; he finished with 12 aces.
A key change came in the second set of tiebreaker thanks to a style change from Medvedev.
Thiem had taken a 2-0 lead before Medvedev stormed back using an element of surprise by rushing to the net more often than usual – both behind serveings and return – and rolling off the next seven points. Medvedev also continued with this strategy with great effect in the last set.
It looked to throw Thiem, who had won three of the pair’s previous four matches, including in equal sets, in the semifinals in New York in September on his way to his first Grand Slam trophy. In the second set on Sunday, Thiem had a break to take a 4-3 edge, but he missed a short shot on one and reacted by putting his hands on his hips and Medvedev produced an ace on the other. Thiem stumbled and tumbled to the pitch in the next game, but seemed to be OK.