Nadal vs Medvedev: Just two months ago, Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev battled in a five-set epic in the US Open final, with the Russian forging a memorable comeback before the lefty showed his steely resolve to earn a 19th Grand Slam title. Both will need to bring their Nadal vs Medvedev Live best to The O2 on Wednesday as they seek to earn their first victory of the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals.
Two eyebrow-raising results in the first Round Robin matches means that we could soon need our tennis calculators to work out permutations on who will advance to the semifinals in Group Andre Agassi.
Both Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev suffered their first-ever defeats against their respective opponents Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, and we should now brace ourselves for a potential classic when the two men who contested the 2019 US Open final clash in a decisive second match.
Rafael Nadal was a distant second best on Monday night as he fell to the defending champion Alexander Zverev 6-2 6-4 in an hour and 24 minutes. The Spaniard was quick to point out that he was pain-free following an abdominal strain he suffered at the Paris Masters a fortnight ago. However, Nadal admitted in the post-match press conference he did lack match sharpness and his famous competitive fighting spirit. Had the World No.1 won, he would have made things extremely unpleasant for Novak Djokovic who is breathing down his neck, eager to wrestle back the No.1 ranking.
Nadal leads Medvedev 2-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, with both of their matches coming this year. They are used to high stakes, with their previous battles coming in the final of an ATP Masters 1000 event (Montreal) and a Grand Slam (Flushing Meadows). It will be no different in London, as they try to avoid going 0-2 in Group Andre Agassi play.
Nadal withdrew from his Rolex Paris Masters semi-final less than two weeks ago due to an abdominal strain. But the Spaniard said after his straight-sets loss on Monday against Alexander Zverev that he felt fine, and simply did not play well enough to beat the German.
“It was not a problem with the abdominal at all. I did not feel pain in the abdominal at all. Just Sascha played well and [I] played bad, honestly. We can find reasons or excuses, but at the end of the day, [all that] really matters is I need to play much better,” Nadal said. “I stay positive. I stay competitive, something that [against Zverev] I was not. That’s the thing that I am more disappointed [about], because knowing that I will not be at my 100 per cent in terms of feelings, in terms of movement, in terms of confidence or hitting the ball, I needed my best competitive spirit [against Zverev], and I was not there in that way.”
Nadal will look to turn that around against Medvedev, who in falling to Stefanos Tsitsipas dropped consecutive matches for the first time since June. He will have to raise his level against Nadal, who has lost his first two round-robin matches at the Nitto ATP Finals just once (2009) in eight appearances.
“I’m struggling a little bit with finding back my level I had in the USA and Shanghai and St. Petersburg, which is… I think normal for any sportsman, and that’s what is amazing about the top three, Big Three and Murray before, that even when you kind of look at them and you think, ‘Okay, they are not playing as good as they can’, they still win these matches,” said Medvedev, who recently advanced to the final of six straight tour-level events he played. “That’s what I’m missing right now, and that’s what I’m going to try to work on and still have two matches to come. Hopefully [I] can play them better.”
Medvedev, the fourth seed, has earned eight Top 10 wins this season, making his career’s total nine. As a tournament debutant — two years after competing in the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan — Medvedev seeks his first victory at the Nitto ATP Finals.Nadal’s first-ever loss to Zverev means that his lead has been truncated to 440 points in the race for the year-end No.1 and his bid to capture a maiden ATP Finals title could be over if he fails to beat Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev also suffered a surprise defeat on Monday to fellow debutant Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Russian’s mastery over the young Greek came to an end as Tsitsipas stepped up on the big points when it mattered at the tail end of both sets to win 7-6 6-4.
Medvedev had entered into that match having won 29 of his last 33 matches and was arguably the biggest story of the 2019 season. With a tour-leading 59 match wins this year, the 23-year-old won four ATP tour titles including two Masters 1000 crowns in Cincinnati and Shanghai respectively. His spectacular second half of the season saw him reach an astonishing six successive finals between Washington up until the Shanghai Masters and came mighty close to complete the most improbable comeback in the US Open final, losing out to Nadal in five sets. Will the man from Moscow avenge that defeat and potentially end Nadal’s pursuit for a first Nitto ATP Finals crown?
Nadal leads the head-to-head 2-0 winning their first match in Canada with embarrassing ease. But it is their US Open tussle which will go down in tennis folklore as one for the ages. It was a match that the tennis world took notice of Medvedev’s remarkable athleticism. Despite his stature, the Russian is an incredibly difficult player to hit through. Nadal’s defence against Zverev was nowhere to be seen and was largely lethargic from the baseline. We will likely see an improved Rafa, but it is hard to see how the Spaniard will be able to repel Medvedev’s offence which is usually a nightmare sight for an opponent.