It'll be Thiem-Medvedev, not Djokovic-Nadal, at ATP Finals

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Austria's Dominic Thiem celebrates winning his semi-final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic on November 21, 2020. (Reuters)
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Russia's Daniil Medvedev celebrates winning the secong set during his semi-final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal on November 21, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 November 2020

It'll be Thiem-Medvedev, not Djokovic-Nadal, at ATP Finals

  • Thiem ended Djokovic’s bid for a record-tying sixth ATP Finals trophy, while Medvedev prevented Nadal from continuing to pursue the most significant title the 20-time major champ hasn’t won

LONDON: Instead of No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 2 Rafael Nadal for the ATP Finals trophy, it’ll be No. 3 Dominic Thiem against No. 4 Daniil Medvedev.
Nadal had won 71 matches in a row when grabbing the opening set, and he served for the victory in Saturday's semifinals when leading 5-4 in the second set. But Medvedev broke at love there and came all the way back to win 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3, claiming the last four games.
“It's great that we managed to beat two of the biggest players in the history of the sport,” Medvedev said. “It's super for tennis.”
Thiem frittered away four match points in his semifinal against Djokovic because he was “tight and nervous” during a second-set tiebreaker. Thiem gathered himself, though, and eventually reeled off seven of the match’s last eight points after trailing 4-0 in the last tiebreaker, winning 7-5, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (5).
“What he did from 0-4 in the third-set tiebreaker was just unreal,” said Djokovic, a 17-time Grand Slam champion. “I don’t think I played bad. ... He just crushed the ball and everything went in.”
Thiem ended Djokovic’s bid for a record-tying sixth ATP Finals trophy, while Medvedev prevented Nadal from continuing to pursue the most significant title the 20-time major champ hasn’t won.
Instead of a 57th meeting between Djokovic and Nadal, Thiem and Medvedev will face off for the fifth time. Thiem leads 3-1, including a straight-set victory in the U.S. Open semifinals in September en route to the 27-year-old Austrian's first Grand Slam championship.
“I, for sure, can cause him some trouble,” Medvedev said.
Did that to Nadal, too.
Nadal seemed on his way to the final when he reeled off four consecutive games in the second set for a chance to serve for the match. He surprisingly stumbled.
“I played a bad game. That’s it,” said Nadal, who deflected a question about whether he had any physical issues during the match.
Once he was back in the match, Medvedev took advantage, dominating the ensuing tiebreaker with the help of a shanked lob winner, a forehand winner that concluded a 26-stroke exchange and a leaping backhand that drew a netted forehand.
Nadal couldn’t shake that off, dropping the match’s last three games as he serve-and-volleyed more than usual, sliced his backhand more than usual and made forehand errors more than usual.
Medvedev had been 0-3 against Nadal, including a five-set loss in the 2019 U.S. Open final, and the lanky 24-year-old Russian’s top-notch serve, capable backhand and willingness to hang in long baseline rallies provided Saturday’s breakthrough.
A year ago, Medvedev went 0-3 in round-robin play at the ATP Finals, while Thiem was the runner-up to Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Whoever wins Sunday on the indoor hard court — where things will be quiet because spectators are banned due to the coronavirus pandemic — will be the tournament's sixth different champion over the past six years, the longest such stretch since 1974-79.
It was the first time since 2004 that the top four players in the rankings filled the four semifinal slots for the ATP Finals. Djokovic, already assured of finishing the year at No. 1 for a record-tying sixth time, was trying to match Roger Federer's mark of six ATP Finals trophies.
In the second set against Djokovic, Thiem’s ace put him ahead 6-5 in the tiebreaker, one point from victory.
But Djokovic saved that initial chance with a 127 mph service winner. Thiem’s next opportunity came at 7-6; he double-faulted.
“I was, like, so tight in my whole body,” Thiem said.
The third was at 9-8, when he pushed a down-the-line forehand wide. At 10-9, Djokovic erased No. 4 with a forehand that landed right on a line.
That began a three-point run by Djokovic to steal the set.
But Thiem regrouped and his 300th career tour-level victory made him only the second man with at least five wins each against the Big Three of Djokovic (5-7 career mark), Federer (5-2) and Nadal (6-9). Andy Murray is the other.
“If you beat these guys,” Thiem said, "it gives you a huge boost of confidence."
Note: Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares clinched the year-end No. 1 team ranking for men’s doubles when the other contenders, Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, lost in Saturday’s semifinals to Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.


Saudi Ladies International confirmed for 2021 after hugely inspiring debut tournament

Updated 24 November 2020

Saudi Ladies International confirmed for 2021 after hugely inspiring debut tournament

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ladies International is confirmed to return on November 10 to 13, 2021 after a debut event that broke new ground for women’s sport both in Saudi Arabia and around the world.

Held over the last two weekends, the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF, and its sister event, the Saudi Ladies Team International, attracted no less than 108 of the best golfers on the planet to the Kingdom to compete for a share of $1.5 million prize money – the Ladies European Tour’s third biggest purse of the season.

Despite being played without spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions, the impact of the ‘women’s week of golf’ was felt worldwide, with the event broadcast to more than 60 countries and almost 350 million households.

In Saudi Arabia, the tournaments were the first ever all-women’s professional sporting events to be beamed on national television, a factor that directly led to more than 1,000 Saudi women and girls registering to learn golf as part of the Golf Saudi’s Ladies First Club free golf initiative, launched on the first day of the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF.

Both events also drew praise across the board from competing players, whose tournament performances were reported from Australia to Swaziland, to a global audience of close to a billion people, bringing unprecedented attention to the women’s game.

“This has been an historic time for Saudi Arabia and women’s golf, and we could not be prouder. Congratulations to Emily Pedersen, there were some great performances, in tough conditions,” Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Chairman of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation, said in a statement.

“Both tournaments have been a great success and in terms of the Saudi Ladies Team International, I am confident this won’t be the last we hear of exciting team formats in the professional game. We are committed to building the game of golf in Saudi Arabia and to creating opportunities for women in the sport.”

The one name on everyone’s lips across both tournaments was Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen, who ended up taking home all three of the week’s available titles after winning the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF in a playoff against England’s major-winning Georgia Hall, and then triumphing in both the individual and team categories of the Saudi Ladies Team International.

She said: “It’s been such a fantastic experience to be here in Saudi Arabia. I have loved the course, the weather is good here, the people are nice, and it’s been a great ten days.”

Scotland’s Alison Muirhead echoed that view, saying: “I’ve loved every minute of my time in Saudi, it’s been fantastic. The people here have been great. We’ve really been looked after, and I’ve really enjoyed being here.”

The tournaments were Saudi Arabia’s first international-scale sporting events since the COVID-19 outbreak, and required vast amounts of planning and on-site regulation to ensure all participants and event staff could operate safely within a bio-secure environment for the duration of the tournaments, held at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.