Novak Djokovic survived a three-set marathon with Daniil Medvedev on Friday to keep alive his chances of becoming the unbeaten champion at the Nitto ATP Finals and walking away from Turin with the biggest payday in tennis history.
Despite already qualifying for the semi-finals, the Serb pushed himself to his limits against Medvedev, winning 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-6(2) to top the red group with a 3-0 record. 2020 champion third-set tie-break loss at this tournament.
Djokovic is aiming to make more history this week and equal Roger Federer’s record six triumphs at the prestigious year-end event. The Serb, who last lifted the title at the tournament in 2015, will take home $4,740,300 if he goes undefeated in Turin.
“This match against one of the biggest opponents I have today is very important, regardless of the fact that I have already qualified,” Djokovic said after his three hour and eleven minute victory. “I really wanted to win.
“Daniil and I have had some battles in the past and I knew going into the match today that it would be his last match of the season and he wouldn’t want to end up losing. I started very well.” [I] had chances in the second [set], had some break points but played very well in those crucial points. He played really fast. In the third set, I didn’t go down physically, I struggled a lot. It’s a struggle and it’s a struggle.
“I was able to find the last drop of energy to get back into the match. At 4-5 I managed to read his serve and anticipate it well and put myself in a good position. I started very well in the tie-break. Tough three games for him , he lost 7-6 in the third in all three games. It’s not easy, but he’s an amazing player. I have a lot of respect for him and it’s a great battle.”
In a high-quality and physical encounter, both landed their punches with ruthless accuracy and power, landing heavy blows to drag each other down in Turin. Djokovic played flawlessly to take the first set before Medvedev responded, sealing the second set on his fourth set point to force a decider.
With little separating them, it was the seventh seed who prevailed in the decider, recovering from the deficit as he maintained his intensity and consistency to claim his 40th tour victory of the season.
The 35-year-old will face Taylor Fritz in the semi-finals on Saturday, where his fitness will be thoroughly tested as he spent over three hours on court against Medvedev in a match that pushed both to their limits. Greek Tsitsipas will face Andrey Rublev in the red group on Friday night, with the winner advancing to face Casper Ruud.
The former world number one has now won 16 of her last 17 matches, having triumphed in Tel Aviv and Astana last month.
Djokovic looked sharp throughout the match against Medvedev. In long exchanges, he timed the ball clear from the baseline and waited patiently for his chances to seal the first set. After failing to convert break point chances at 1-1 and 4-4 in the second set, the Serb saved three set points at 4-5 to hold, saving the last one to win in an impressive 33-run rally that ended the winner forehand.
However, Medvedev won’t deny himself, in the tie-break he hit over Djokovic to equalize. In a tight third set, the fourth seed broke for 5-4 in a game that lasted more than 15 minutes. However, Medvedev was unable to serve and Djokovic came back. With a tie-break remaining to decide the thriller, the Serb pulled clear when it mattered to improve to 8-4 in his ATP Head2Head series against Medvedev.
Djokovic played great defense throughout the encounter and showed off his agility and ability to hang on points. Serbian produced Steal Score 43 percent, well above the Tour average of 34 percent. Learn more about Steal Score Insights here.
Medvedev lifted the trophy at the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals before reaching the final last season. The 26-year-old player got past Jannik Sinner in an epic match between them last year, when the fate of both players was already sealed. In similar circumstances this year, Medvedev was at the opposite end of the result, which means that he will finish the stage between individual rounds 0:3.
The fourth seed ends its season with a 45-19 record. He reached the final of the Australian Open before lifting tour trophies in Los Cabos and Vienna.
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