Friday Preview: Zverev Needs Medvedev Win To Reach Semi-finals
The German, who earned the biggest title of his career in London last year, can advance to the semi-finals — and in the process, eliminate Nadal — by beating Medvedev. Zverev lost in straight sets against Tsitsipas on Wednesday, but he also dropped his second round-robin match last season.
“Against Rafa, I obviously played a great match. [Against Stefanos on Wednesday] I didn't. This is just how it is sometimes, even though I have to give credit to him. He played really well,” Zverev said. “But still, there are a lot of things that I did not do great, and I have to change that to have a chance on Friday.
“But things are still in my hands, and I'm looking forward to it, because I can still decide whether I'm here on Saturday or not.”
Medvedev is making his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals, and he is still pursuing his first win at the event. The Russian is the only player who has not tallied a victory this tournament.
But he showed some of the tennis that helped him win his first two ATP Masters 1000 titles this year against Nadal, whom he led 5-1 in the deciding set — earning a match point in that game — before ultimately succumbing in a final-set tie-break.
“I played much better [than in my first match]… Still was far from what I want, but I played much better,” Medvedev said of his loss against Nadal. “[I] still have one match to go. Not sure if it's going to mean anything in terms of going to [the] semis, but just going to try to play even better.”
If Medvedev triumphs in straight sets and Tsitsipas defeats Nadal, the Russian will move through to the last four. He lost his first four FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Zverev, but blitzed the German 6-4, 6-1 in October to lift the Rolex Shanghai Masters trophy.
Rafael Nadal clinched the year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking on Thursday when Novak Djokovic lost to Roger Federer at the Nitto ATP Finals. But the Spaniard has plenty of business ahead of him in London. Nadal must defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday to have a chance of reaching the semi-finals at the season finale.
The lefty has never triumphed at the Nitto ATP Finals, and he will have to dent Tsitsipas' undefeated record so far this week if he is to have a chance to do so. Nadal will need some help, too, as a win by defending champion Zverev against Medvedev in the other Group Andre Agassi match in the evening would end the top seed's run at The O2 regardless of whether he beats Tsitsipas.
Nadal is not worrying about that, though. The 33-year-old is fully set on executing his best tennis against the Greek star.
“He’s a great player, a lot of energy, very young and he’s having an amazing season. So it will be a very tough one,” Nadal said. “I know I need to win that one. I hope to be ready for it, let’s try to make that happen.”
The 84-time tour-level titlist leads Tsitsipas 4-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. But the Greek is playing some of his best tennis, having already defeated Medvedev and Zverev without dropping a set this week. Tsitsipas embraces the challenge of facing tennis’ legends, like Nadal.
“I always find an extra motivation, an extra reason to play well against the top guys,” Tsitsipas said. “You have been watching them on TV. You have always wanted to be part of that. So for you, when you step out on the court, it's a visual. When you see something that you have been dreaming of, I think there is always a spark, kind of an extra reason to play. I don't know if it's so much psychological or mental. It's kind of like when you're in survival mode. You're more alert. You're more ready for things.”
Nadal has guaranteed he will finish atop the year-end ATP Rankings for the fifth time, tying Djokovic, Federer and Jimmy Connors for the second most all-time. But Nadal is focussed on trying to advance to the semi-finals of this tournament for the sixth time. In that sense, Tsitsipas can play the spoiler.
“I am aware that he's a difficult opponent to face. I'm sure this match is going to mean a lot to him for a chance for him to make it to the semi-finals,” Tsitsipas said. “So I'm going to give it my all. I'm going to try to give my soul, and I think it's also a very good challenge for me in order to prepare for more difficult matches in the semi-finals and the finals, potentially, so this match is going to give me a lot. It's going to educate me, and I'm going to try to absorb as much as I can from that.”
Did You Know?
Zverev is trying to become the first player to win back-to-back Nitto ATP Finals trophies since Djokovic lifted his fourth consecutive season finale trophy in 2015.