Just three months after Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev squared off in the U.S. Open final, the two met again at a round-robin match of the ATP World Tour Finals in the O2 Arena in London on Thursday.
The history repeated itself for the third time as World No.1 Rafael Nadal staged an incredible comeback after trailing 2-5 in the final set to outlast Daniil Medvedev 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 (4) in a marathon match that lasted 2 hours 46 minutes.
The must-win match for both players began with strong service games on either end, with Nadal and Medvedev comfortably holding serves till 5-5. Fourth seed Medvedev had a chance to break Nadal’s serve in game seven but a glorious pass bailed the latter out of trouble as he eventually bagged the service game.
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Medvedev held to love in game 12 to make it 6-6 and forced the first set into a tie-breaker. Highest-ranked Russian Medvedev carried the momentum into the tie-breaker as he claimed three mini-breaks to win 7-3 and took the first set in 52 minutes.
Nadal responded with positivity and turned the tide in his favour by breaking Medvedev in the first game of the second set and held his serve to go up a break.
Nadal eventually took the match into the decider by breaking Medvedev again in game nine, caping off the second set 6-3 in 42 minutes. Medvedev saved two set points but a double fault at deuce followed by a backhand cross-court return falling wide, resulted in him conceding the game.
The start of the final set mirrored that of the second. Only this time, Nadal was on the receiving end as Medvedev went up a break to make it 2-0. He tightened his stranglehold on the match with a brilliant love-hold in game four to go up a double break. But the 19-time Grand Slam Spaniard was far from giving up.
He broke back twice in game eight and 10 — against all odds — to draw level at 5-5. Medvedev finally managed to hold his service game as the third set progressed into a tie-breaker.
Both players fought tooth and nail till the final point, but in the end Nadal successfully clinched the third set 7-6.
This was the third meeting between the two players. Nadal defeated Medvedev 6-3,6-0 in the final of the 2019 Rogers Cup in Montreal Canada. Nadal made it 2-0 in their head-to-head count when he outlasted the Russian in a five-set thriller at the famous 2019 US Open final.
After Novak Djokovic’s loss to Dominic Thiem on Tuesday, the fight for the number one ranking has gathered steam. The Serb has a must-win match against Roger Federer on Thursday. If he loses, then Nadal will finish the year as the number one ranked player for the fifth time in his career.
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The Spanish great is chasing his first title at the Tour Finals and fifth of 2019. He won the U.S. Open and French Open apart from bagging Rome Masters and Rogers Cup. Nadal is appearing in the year-ender for the 15th consecutive year. His best performance in the tournament came in 2010 and 2013, when he finished as the runner-up on both ocassions.
Tournament debutant Medvedev has had an outstanding year on the ATP Tour, reaching six consecutive tournament finals. Having begun the year at world No. 16, he ranks just behind the Big Three Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Federer, and has a chance of overtaking the Swiss maestro this week.