Hamad Medjedovic and Dominic Stricker's maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting is set for Friday night in Jeddah, where the winner will advance to a championship-match clash against Arthur Fils at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM.
While Stricker and Medjedovic are not countrymen, their relationship goes back many years to their early junior days.
“I’ve known Dominic for a long time,” Medjedovic said after beating Arab hope Abdullah Shelbayh to secure his semi-final place. “He’s a great player and a great guy obviously. I think it’s going to be a great match and I’m happy to be in the semis.”
The Serbian leads the Jeddah field in a number of key metrics on both serve and return, including aces (45), service games won (37 of 39, 95%) and points won against first serve (32%). Those numbers added up to a perfect 3-0 record and a first-place finish in the Red Group.
Stricker posted a 1-2 record in the Green Group and advanced with a better percentage of sets won (45%) than Italians Flavio Cobolli and Luca Nardi, who were also 1-2. While he has not sustained top form so far in Jeddah, he has the advantage of experience: The lone returning competitor at this year's Next Gen ATP Finals, Stricker also reached the semis last season in Milan. He has picked up considerable big-match experience since then, with a run to the US Open fourth round that helped him achieve a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 88 in October.
For all the top-level matches the four Jeddah semi-finalists have played this season, none have had the opportunity to compete under the bright lights of the Next Gen ATP Finals title match. That reward — a chance to put the perfect cap on a breakout season — is on the line Friday night.
Top seed Fils and second seed Van Assche played once before at the junior level, in 2021. In the final of Roland Garros, their home Grand Slam, Van Assche earned a straight-sets victory. By becoming the first Frenchmen to reach the semi-finals in the six-year history of the Next Gen ATP Finals, they have set up another high-stakes encounter in Jeddah.
Fils enters as winner of the Green Group with a perfect 3-0 record. This year's Lyon champion leads the field in both second-serve points won (60%) and return games won (9 of 35, 26%). Van Assche, who finished second in the Red Group at 2-1, is second in return games won (9 of 37, 24%) but has faced a tournament-high 37 break points, saving 31 of them.
With three matches under their belts, both players are now accustomed to the innovations and new rules on trial at the event — including no on-court warm-up and a reduced shot clock.
"It is exciting to have new rules and I am adapting after three matches," Van Assche said. "I think most of the rules are pretty cool. The no warm-up is a bit difficult."