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

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

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.


India clinch Australia Test series in Gabba thriller

India clinch Australia Test series in Gabba thriller
Updated 19 January 2021

India clinch Australia Test series in Gabba thriller

India clinch Australia Test series in Gabba thriller
  • Wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant starred with a swashbuckling 89 not out

BRISBANE: India pulled off a record run-chase in a thrilling final session to hand Australia their first defeat at Brisbane’s Gabba ground since 1988 and clinch the four-Test series 2-1 on Tuesday.

Wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant starred with a swashbuckling 89 not out as the injury-depleted visitors overhauled the 328-run target with three overs to go, winning by three wickets.

Australia had not been beaten at the Gabba since falling to Viv Richards’ all-conquering West Indies side by nine wickets in November 1988. India’s 329 for seven also smashed the 69-year-old record for the biggest run-chase at the Gabba, set by Australia who scored 236 for seven to beat the West Indies in 1951.

The series win was a remarkable achievement considering India were bowled out for their lowest Test score of 36 to lose the first Test in Adelaide, before bouncing back to win the second in Melbourne.

The visitors, ravaged by injuries and captain Virat Kohli’s absence for paternity leave, then batted throughout the final day to draw the third Test in Sydney.

“It really means a lot to us. I don’t know how to describe this victory but I’m really proud of all the boys,” said India’s interim skipper Ajinkya Rahane.

Man-of-the-match Pant, who played a similar innings in the drawn Sydney Test, blasted his 89 from 138 balls with nine fours and a six.

His innings followed an equally impressive knock from 21-year-old Shubman Gill, who made 91 at the top of the order earlier in the day.

Cheteshwar Pujara’s 56 was also vital, the gritty number three hit 10 times by Australia’s quicks, taking blows to the fingers, arm, ribs and head as he was subjected to a searching examination by Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

Cummins with 4-55 was easily the pick of the Australian attack, sending down 24 overs of pace and hostility, but the rest of the bowlers looked fatigued after bowling all day in Sydney just eight days ago.

“I’m absolutely disappointed, no doubt about that. We’ve come here to win the Test and win the series,” said Australia captain Tim Paine.

“It’s probably a little bit of a trend the whole series — I think in the key moments we were found wanting and completely outplayed by a really disciplined, really tough Indian side who fully deserved the series win.”

Despite Australia’s fearsome record at the Gabba, the Indian batsmen showed no fear and never looked interested in playing for a draw, even after losing the wickets of Pujara and Mayank Agarwal after tea.

Pant took advantage of any loose ball, but also played some outrageous strokes, showing the influence T20 cricket has had on Tests.

Their effort in the fourth Test is even more admirable considering the high injury toll on tour.

Their bowling attack was led by Mohammad Siraj, who debuted in Melbourne, supported by Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur, T. Natarajan and Washington Sundar, who had two Tests between them heading into Brisbane.

The tourists were without the services of front-line seamers Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav and Japrit Bumrah and regular spin bowlers Ravi Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin.

After just one wicket in the first session, Australia could only manage two after lunch, with Gill falling for his superb 91 and skipper Rahane a quickfire 24.

Gill was magnificent on a fifth-day wicket, smashing the Australian bowlers to all corners of the ground.

He hit eight fours and two towering sixes in his 146-ball innings before he became Nathan Lyon’s 398th Test victim, edging an arm ball to first slip where Steve Smith took a sharp catch.

With Pujara putting down the anchor at one end, Rahane raced to 24 from just 22 balls before he edged Cummins to Australian ‘keeper Paine to leave India 167 for three.

India looked in control through the final session and despite losing three wickets in the last hour, they cruised home with three overs to spare when Pant hit the winning four off Hazlewood.

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