08:27 PM GMT November 20, 2020
What a difference a year makes. Daniil Medvedev went winless at last season's Nitto ATP Finals, but on Friday, he completed a perfect 3-0 run through Group Tokyo 1970.
Medvedev defeated tournament debutant Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3 to carry plenty of confidence into the semi-finals, in which he will play World No. 2 Rafael Nadal in a rematch of the 2019 US Open final.
“I was playing great in the two previous matches. I think it is always good to stay undefeated for the confidence. I wanted to win the match, so I am really happy that I have done it,” said Medvedev in an on-court interview. “I was serving really good today, so that helped me a lot throughout all the match.”
Only three players have won the season finale the year after making a winless debut at the prestigious event. Medvedev is now just two victories from becoming the fourth player in that elite group. Nadal leads their ATP Head2Head series 3-0, including a stunning comeback from 5-1 down in the third set of their clash at last year's Nitto ATP Finals.
“I like playing all of the [Big] Three. When I was so young, starting to hold the racquet and just started to be interested in tennis… I started to see Grand Slams," Medvedev said. "First it was Roger winning everything, then Rafa came and started to make his mark and then it was Novak. It is a great pleasure to play against all of them and I am really looking forward to tomorrow.”
The recent Rolex Paris Masters champion is known for his unflappable defence, which he used to frustrate five-time champion Novak Djokovic in a straight-sets victory on Wednesday. But against the Argentine, he played with atypical aggression to triumph after one hour and 14 minutes.
Medvedev, the first Russian to compete in the Nitto ATP Finals in consecutive years since 2009 titlist Nikolay Davydenko (2005-09), has not yet lost a set. He is the only player to go undefeated in group play.
The 24-year-old drives opponents crazy by playing from well behind the baseline and putting them in awkward positions with his defence. But he signaled new intentions on Centre Court against Schwartzman, breaking for a 2-1 lead in the first set with a forehand winner down the line.
Medvedev continued to attack throughout the match, frequenting the net. That left Schwartzman struggling for answers, and he was never able to make enough in-roads with his serve to trouble the World No. 4. The debutant only won 58 per cent of his service points and was broken three times.
"[Going] 0-3 in your first Masters doesn't mean anything. I can say [that] with my experience that I had last year," Medvedev said. "Hopefully he can qualify for the next one."
Medvedev dominated with his first serve, winning 88 per cent of those points. The three-time ATP Masters 1000 champion also saved the two break points he faced.
The Russian now leads Schwartzman 5-0 in their ATP Head2Head series. He has won 10 of their 11 sets, and all 10 sets he has won have come by a margin of 6-4 or greater.
Schwartzman finishes the best season of his career with a 25-15 record. It was a year of firsts for the Argentine, who cracked the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings and reached his first Masters 1000 final among other accomplishments.
"I'm really proud because I did many great things in many different weeks this year. But also, I have the feeling in my body that I have to improve, because I want to be here again," Schwartzman said. "But to be here again, I have to do better."