© Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev played four times in 2021.

Rivalries Of 2021: Medvedev vs. Zverev

ATP Tour Season In Review: Best Rivalries

Continuing our Best of 2021 Season In Review series, ATPTour.com revisits the biggest rivalries of 2021. Today we feature Daniil Medvedev vs. Alexander Zverev

Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev headed into 2021 with the same goal as they looked to close the gap on World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and capture their first major titles.

The pair, however, would also have to overcome each other if they wanted to lift the biggest trophies on Tour, with Medvedev holding the edge entering the year, having won their past two meetings.

In 2021, It did not take long for the two to renew their rivalry.


ATP Cup, SF, Medvedev d. Zverev 3-6, 6-3, 7-5
In just the first week of the season, Medvedev and Zverev met in Melbourne as they competed for Russia and Germany respectively at the ATP Cup.

The World No. 2 had swept aside Diego Schwartzman and Kei Nishikori in his opening two matches of the year, while Zverev had downed Denis Shapovalov before he lost to Novak Djokovic in three sets.

Playing under the closed roof on Rod Laver Arena, Medvedev played patiently as he overcame a serving onslaught from the 24-year-old by adjusting his return position, standing deeper behind the baseline to rally from a break down in the second set. In a tight decider, a double fault from Zverev gave Medvedev the late break at 6-5 and from there he secured victory, fending off five break points in his final service game to win.

“When it's against Sascha and you are 6-3, 3-2 break down, many times you're going to lose a match,” Medvedev said. “But I needed to keep my chances alive for the team first of all, for the country. I just tried to stay there, got a bit tight maybe. I just did my job and I'm really happy about it.”

Rolex Paris Masters, SF, Medvedev d. Zverev 6-2, 6-2
After nine months, Medvedev and Zverev faced off once again in Paris in November at the final ATP Masters 1000 event of the season. In that time, the German had captured titles in Madrid and Cincinnati and won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Medvedev had not fared too badly either, earning his maiden major title at the US Open, while also triumphing in Marseille, Mallorca and Toronto.

Despite Zverev entering the match on an eight-match winning streak, the German looked flat, and it was the Russian who controlled proceedings throughout in the French capital. Medvedev saved all three break points he faced and soaked up the German’s powerful hitting, committing just eight unforced errors to level their ATP Head2Head series at 5-5.

"We had a tough match,” Medvedev said. “Sometimes the score doesn’t show exactly what happened on the court. I am happy to have this score, but he had 2-1, 15/40 in the first set on my serve. I think this first break of serve when you play Sascha is really important because he gains confidence. I am really happy I managed to raise my level throughout the match and I didn’t make too many unforced errors.”

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Nitto ATP Finals, Round Robin, Medvedev d. Zverev 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(6)
In one of the matches of the season, Medvedev and Zverev went blow-to-blow for two hours and 35 minutes in group play in Turin, before the Russian once again came out on top.

Both came into the match holding a 1-0 round-robin record after Medvedev downed Hubert Hurkacz, while Zverev had led Matteo Berrettini by a set before the Italian was forced to retire due to injury.

The pair, who also met in the round-robin stage at the season finale in 2020, played attacking tennis, with Medvedev successfully soaking up the German’s heavy-hitting. Medvedev looked to attack Zverev’s backhand and did so successfully as he dominated the backhand exchanges to secure victory in front of a raucous crowd at the Pala Alpitour in Turin to reach the semi-finals.

In a tense third-set tie-break, Medvedev found a deep return on his backhand to move 6/4 ahead, but Zverev stepped up to save both match points as Medvedev attempted to serve and volley. However, it only delayed the outcome, with Medvedev sealing victory on his third match point when Zverev hit a backhand into the net.

“Definitely one of the matches to remember,” Medvedev said. “When you win 8/6 in the tie-break in the third, it was 4/2 for him so I was like ‘Okay, he serves a few aces it’s done’. I made it 6/4 and I was like ‘Okay, that’s my moment now’. It’s back to 6/6, you get really tight, because I wanted to make a brave move on the 6/5 second serve and volley, didn’t work out at all. If I lose the match because of this it’s going to be tough… Just an amazing feeling.”

Nitto ATP Finals, Final, Zverev d. Medvedev 6-4, 6-4
Having upset World No. 1 Djokovic in the semi-finals, Zverev had the chance to gain revenge against Medvedev just five days later in the final in Turin.

The 25-year-old had cruised past Casper Ruud to reach the championship match and many thought he would be the fresher of the two. However, Zverev produced a strong serving performance as he demonstrated his quality and grit to snap his five-match losing streak against the Russian and clinch his second Nitto ATP Finals crown.

Zverev fired eight aces, won 83 per cent (33/40) of his first-serve points and did not face a break point in the match to become just the fourth player in the tournament’s history to earn semi-final and final wins over the Top 2 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

The German also struck more forehands against Medvedev in the final compared to their round-robin clash, hitting 57 per cent of forehands, 10 per cent more than earlier in the week. It allowed Zverev to hit his potent forehand weapon more and he forced Medvedev to rely a lot less on his proverbial brick-wall backhand.

Medvedev was aiming to retain his title, having won his past nine matches at the prestigious season finale. But he could never apply pressure on Zverev as the German outmanoeuvred him to earn his tour-leading 59th win of the year.

“It was great,” Zverev said. “I won the [Nitto ATP] Finals, in the final against someone I had lost five times in a row, so I had to play one of my best matches. I am happy about that and happy to go on holiday with this win.”

Medvedev vs. Zverev In 2021

Event

Surface

Round

Winner

Score

ATP Cup

Hard

SF

Medvedev

3-6, 6-3, 7-5

Rolex Paris Masters

Hard

SF

Medvedev

6-2, 6-2

Nitto ATP Finals

Hard              Round Robin

Medvedev

6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(6)

Nitto ATP Finals           

Hard

Final

Zverev

6-4, 6-4

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