08:51 PM GMT November 18, 2020
Daniil Medvedev grinded out the five-time champion 6-3, 6-3 on Centre Court at The O2 for the third win in their past four ATP Head2Head meetings, guaranteeing his spot in the semi-finals at the season finale.
“I like to play Novak because he is one of the greatest champions in the history of our sport,” Medvedev said in an on-court interview. “When I was eight years old, I was already watching him on TV winning Grand Slams. He was still young. It is always a dream come true to play against him.
"Of course, [I am] really happy to beat him. I was serving good and playing safe enough in the most important moments. That is why I got the win.”
One year ago, the Russian lost all three matches in London on his tournament debut. He has already clinched the top spot in Group Tokyo 1970 after moving to 2-0. The 24-year-old, who from 2-3 down in the first set won seven consecutive games, is trying to become the fourth player to lift the Nitto ATP Finals trophy the season after a winless debut (Djokovic, Stich, Edberg).
“To be completely honest, I am sure he didn’t play his best today. But still, it happens for everybody,” Medvedev said. “I always say the Big Three are the champions because it happens less for them than for other players. It is still tough to beat them, even on their bad days so I am really happy about the win. I am feeling good [and] confident right now… I knew I had to take my chances [and] serve good.”
Medvedev booked his semi-final berth with an impressive defensive display in which he did to Djokovic what the Serbian does to the rest of the ATP Tour. The Russian gave the top seed no free points and repelled all his offence, frustrating Djokovic. As the 17-time Grand Slam champion’s level waned, Medvedev remained rock-solid, forcing his rival to beat him.
“He’s getting a little taste of his own medicine,” former World No. 1 Jim Courier said while broadcasting the match for Tennis Channel.
It was like watching the game ‘Pong’. No matter what Djokovic did, Medvedev had an answer. The 6’6” righty showed off his wheels at the back of the court, neutralising the Serbian’s aggression. While the top seed’s service games were full of lengthy rallies, Medvedev did well to keep things shorter, winning 61 per cent of his second-serve points compared to 43 per cent for Djokovic.
The 33-year-old fell to 6-7 in his second round-robin match at the year-end championships. Djokovic will try to recover for his final Group Tokyo 1970 match against 2018 champion Alexander Zverev, with the winner advancing to the semi-finals.
"It was just difficult to break his serve. He's serving tremendously well, moving great. Hasn't given me too many unforced errors and free points," Djokovic said. "Just not a great match from my side. I thought I could have and should have done better, but credit to him for playing on a high level."
Medvedev went unbroken in his triumph and now only trails 3-4 in the pair’s ATP Head2Head series.
The World No. 1 saved the first four break points he faced with clutch, patient tennis. But once he missed an awkward low forehand at 3-3 to lose his serve, the gates opened for Medvedev. Djokovic grew impatient in rallies, using drop shots ineffectively and allowing Medvedev to stick with his successful defensive game plan.
Medvedev struck nine aces and only faced one break point, completing his victory with a forehand winner. He will play Diego Schwartzman on Friday.