Daniil Medvedev fought from behind to defeat Rafael Nadal at the ATP Finals on Saturday and book his spot in Sunday’s final against Dominic Thiem.
Nadal’s pursuit of a season-ending title – the most significant honour to have eluded the Spaniard in his storied career – came to an end for another year as he came up short 6-3 6-7(4) 3-6 against the Russian after just over two-and-a-half hours on court at the O2 Arena in London.
Medvedev put early pressure on 34-year-old Nadal, forcing the world No 2 to work hard for a hold of serve just three games into the match. But Nadal showed resolve in fending off the world No 4, and it was Medvedev who blinked first at 3-4 as the French Open champion secured a break.
READ MORE: Thiem outlasts Djokovic in marathon semi-final
Nadal then clinically served out the first set, taking it 6-3.
But Medvedev, 10 years Nadal’s junior, was quick to respond, breaking the 20-time Grand Slam champion in the second game of the second set before holding for a 3-0 lead. Nadal was able to secure a service game of his own to stop the rot, but was still left with it all to do as Medvedev moved to 4-1 in the set.
After holding serve to narrow the gap to 4-2, Nadal crucially saved break point before winning Medvedev’s next service game. The Spaniard then held to tie the set at 4-4. And the momentum proved too much for Medvedev, who was broken again as Nadal took his fourth game in a row and prepared to serve for the match.
There was to be another twist, however, with Medvedev immediately breaking back before moving into a 6-5 lead, reversing the pressure.
Nadal fought through it to force a tiebreak, but his opponent was the sharper player as the set neared its conclusion. Though Nadal was able to save a set point, Medvedev converted at the second time of asking to take the breaker 7-4 and extend the semi-final to a deciding set.
The Russian continued to test Nadal, earning break point in the opening frame of the final set but failing to capitalise, yet holding to love in the next game.
The set followed serve until a titanic game at 3-3 saw Nadal save two break points before being broken by Medvedev, leaving the final in the Russian’s reach.
He held to move to 5-3, then served out the match to set up a meeting with last year’s runner-up and this year’s US Open champion Dominic Thiem on Sunday.
Thiem outlasted world No1 and five-time ATP Finals champion Novak Djokovic in a marathon three-setter earlier on Saturday.
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