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.


Australian Open ‘likely’ to be delayed by two weeks

Updated 25 November 2020

Australian Open ‘likely’ to be delayed by two weeks

  • Australian Open chief Craig Tiley had originally wanted players to start arriving from mid-December
  • But the plan was thrown into doubt by Victoria state Premier Dan Andrews

SYDNEY: The Australian Open will likely be delayed by one to two weeks, officials said Wednesday, as talks continue over staging the tournament in Melbourne, which has only recently emerged from months of coronavirus lockdown.
A delay for a week or two to the first Grand Slam of the year, scheduled to begin on January 18, was now “most likely,” said Martin Pakula, the Sports Minister of the Victoria State government.
“I still think it’s much more likely that it will be a shorter rather than longer delay,” Pakula said.
The “very complex negotiations” were still under way but he remained confident it would go ahead in the early part of 2021.
For eight months, Australia has virtually closed off from the rest of the world, with a blanket ban on non-residents entering the country and citizens strongly advised against all foreign travel.
Australian Open chief Craig Tiley had originally wanted players to start arriving in Australia from mid-December so they could undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine before playing traditional warm-up events.
But the plan was thrown into doubt by Victoria state Premier Dan Andrews, who reportedly will not allow players to arrive before January, which would make it all but impossible to hold the high-profile ATP Cup and other tournaments the start of the Open.
Still under discussion is whether players will be able to train or compete during quarantine.
It comes as Grand Slam winner Andy Murray called for all players to be vaccinated against Covid-19 when it becomes available.
“I would hope that all the players would be willing to do that for the good of the sport — providing everything has proved to be safe, clinical trials and everything have been done and there are not any significant side-effects,” Murray said.
Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Nadal said it was an unprecedented situation and urged patience from players.
“That is difficult for everyone,” he said at the ATP Finals in London last week.
“We need to be flexible to understand the situation and to find a way to play as many tournaments as possible next year.”