Nadal backhand spins
Today: 27% topspin and 73% slice
Rest of tournament: 74% topspin, 26% slice
Rafael Nadal *5-3 Daniil Medvedev
After all of his earlier battles, it’s Nadal who makes the first move, breaking Medvedev’s serve to love. Nadal opened with a vicious down-the-line forehand to move up 0-15 and set the tone. At 0-30, Nadal showed astonishing footwork, sweeping around the ball and unloading on an enormous inside out forehand winner.
The first break point produced a long, exhausting rally with Medvedev on the front foot as Nadal attempted to draw out an error with a series of backhand slices. Eventually, Medvedev moved forward on a short ball but sent his forehand long.
After opening the match with some tremendous serving, Medvedev missed all four first serves and he was punished for it.
Rafael Nadal 4-3* Daniil Medvedev
A much simpler hold for Nadal to retain his narrow lead. At 30-15, Nadal once again drew out a netted backhand error from Medvedev with a low backhand slice. Medvedev scuppered the first game point by chasing down a decent Nadal slice and sweeping it away with his forehand. On the second game point, Nadal dragged Medvedev wide with a series of typical crosscourt forehands, eventually drawing an error.
Rafael Nadal *3-3 Daniil Medvedev
An unreturned serve and two aces from Medvedev en-route to a quick hold to 15. This is all very easy on his serve so far.
We have already seen a couple of serve and volley attempts from Nadal and, given Medvedev’s deep return position, we will see more.
He is unsurprisingly trying to mix up his shots as much as possible and particularly to expose Medvedev’s flat strokes with his low, biting slice. Just a few too many errors early on from Nadal.
Rafael Nadal 3-2* Daniil Medvedev
Nadal once again left himself with some work to do, this time falling down 15-30. He handled it well once again, forcing a forehand error from Medvedev after a tough, physical point at 15-30. At 30-30, he switched things up with a serve and volley attempt, finishing with a lovely backhand drop volley. One further Medvedev forehand error on game point sealed the hold.
Rafael Nadal *2-2 Daniil Medvedev
No such problems for Medvedev on serve. He breezed through a quick hold to 30, slamming down a serve-forehand combination at 15-15 and then a very nice drop shot winner at 30-15. On his second game point, he slammed down an unreturned serve.
Rafael Nadal 2-1* Daniil Medvedev
A really good hold from Nadal, who saves three break points in a fairly long deuce game. After a few sloppy errors from Nadal at deuce to bring up the break points, Nadal saved the first break point thanks to a Medvedev backhand error. On Medvedev’s second and third break points, Nadal found two big unreturned serves.
At deuce, Nadal switched things up, playing a great drop shot-lob combination before crushing a forehand down-the-line. He finished with another unreturned serve. Good work.
Rafael Nadal *1-1 Daniil Medvedev
A very good start from Medvedev, too. He opened his first service game with two brutal backhand winners, one crosscourt and one down-the-line. He reached 40-0 with an ace, then he closed it out with another vicious backhand down-the-line, forcing a Nadal backhand error. Both men are already dialled in.
Rafael Nadal 1-0* Daniil Medvedev
A nice hold from Nadal to begin. We already got a glimpse of what will work for him today. After a forehand error the first point, Nadal responded with a quick serve and volley. We will be seeing much more of him at the net.
After being pulled to 30-30, Nadal battered the Medvedev backhand, then swept a lovely inside out forehand winner. At 40-30, Nadal varied his groundstrokes with slices, loopy backhands and heavy forehands. Eventually, a slice drew a backhand error.
Q. You go up against Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals. How much would you say he’s improved since the US Open? I know it’s a different format, but he seems a completely different player now. Do you know what to expect?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I don’t know if he’s completely different player. I don’t think nobody is completely different player, no? I think he’s playing great, but we can’t forget that last year he played amazing too. You know, he played the final in Washington, final in Montreal, winning Cincinnati, final US Open. Then he won in Shanghai and I think a couple more tournaments. So better than this is very difficult, no? He’s playing amazing this year for sure now. He played semifinals in New York and now winning in Paris, and winning two matches here of course he has plenty of confidence and playing very, very high level. But we are in the semifinals of the World Tour Finals so we can’t expect another story, no? Playing against the best players in good shape. I know I need to play at my 100% if I want to have chances, and that’s what I’m gonna try.
Q. Your thoughts going into the semifinal, and obviously it’s a complete turnaround from last year, but your thoughts going into playing Rafa in the semis.
DANIIL MEDVEDEV: Yeah, as I always say, I enjoy playing Rafa, Novak, and Roger. They are idols of me growing up when I first started to be interested in tennis. Basically when I started playing it, Roger was already there I think winning almost everything. Then Rafa came to make his marks, and then Novak came to try to disturb them all the time (smiling). So always great to play against them. Really looking forward to the match. Feeling confident. I think Rafa is also. Played a great match yesterday. I need to show my best tennis to have the opportunity to win.
Q. You have kind of mentioned the match against Rafa here last year a couple of times. How much will you think about that kind of in the buildup to tomorrow’s match or not at all?
DANIIL MEDVEDEV: Oh, to be honest, not at all, just in terms of tactics for sure maybe a little bit, remember something from last year, because actually I was close to winning it, but a new match is a new match. It’s one year already. So even though we all know who is Rafa, everybody changes. So I’m sure he changed few small things in his game. I changed mine. So new match is never the same. You know, even you can play him — as we say, in round robin you can play, you can win, and then you can lose in the final, something like this. I’m just looking for tomorrow and not thinking at all about last year, as I say, except some tactical points of view.
Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev have arrived on-court. We will begin shortly.
Here are highlights from Dominic Thiem’s earlier win over Novak Djokovic.
And here are highlights of last year’s match. It must be said that this encounter should have limited relevance from both. Nadal was still getting back up to speed after struggling with injury in the week leading up to the ATP Finals and Medvedev was exhausted after his efforts in his breakthrough season.
Here are those antics mentioned below. Classic.
Hello! Welcome to our coverage on semi-final day of the ATP Finals from the O2 Arena as Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev compete for the second spot in tomorrow’s final.
Earlier today, Dominic Thiem overcame Novak Djokovic in a nervy encounter, squandering four match points in the second set before bulldozing everything in his path from 0-4 down in the third set tiebreak to win. After that rematch of the 2020 Australian Open final, we have a rematch of the 2019 US Open final tonight.
Of all the outstanding performers in London, Medvedev has probably produced the highest, most consistent level throughout and he is yet to drop a set. He even had no problems navigating a potentially tricky dead rubber against Diego Schwartzman last night, swatting aside the Argentine without wasting any energy. He is serving, returning, defending and countering at such a high level and this will be extremely tough.
Thankfully for Nadal, he is also playing extremely well. Although he was unable to find his best tennis in the important moments, he was one half of one of the highest quality matches of the year against Dominic Thiem, eventually losing in two tiebreaks. Despite a short 10 minute blip from the end of set two, he produced another convincing performance against Stefanos Tsitsipas to secure his place in this semi-final.
Nadal, of course, has never won the ATP Finals and every year we have the same discussions over his failure to produce his best tennis indoors. We should talk more about how, particularly in the past two seasons, he has managed to adapt his game on this surface. His heavy topspin may not be as troublesome on this surface but he is producing some of the best serving of his career and he is also taking advantage of his excellent volleys and net sense by moving forward to the net as much as he ever has in the past. He is really fun to watch on this surface and hopefully he will be again today. Let’s see who wins.
Daniil Medvedev is 0-3 against Rafael Nadal, but he is getting closer and closer. After being demolished 6-3 6-0 in the Montreal final last year, they played a wildly entertaining US Open final in which Medvedev, after all of the antics that led up to the match, recovered from two sets down to push him to a tight 5th set.
Last year at the ATP Finals, Medvedev led 5-1 in the third set and held a match point before watching the match slip from his grasp. As he prepared for his first match this week, he plainly called it a choke. Few would argue with him.