Rafael Nadal in the first round of the Australian Open 2018
Rafael Nadal in the first round of the Australian Open 2018 (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

Tennis | Nitto ATP Finals 2019 | Nadal stages miraculous comeback while Zverev makes title defence hard for himself

By Ros Satar at the Nitto ATP Finals in London

  • Rafael Nadal [1] def. Daniil Medvedev 6-7(3) 6-3 7-6(4)
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas [6] def. Alexander Zverev [7] 6-3, 6-2
LONDON, UK – Rafael Nadal came from match-point down to deliver a stunning comeback over Daniil Medvedev, while defending champion Alexander Zverev capitulated to Stefanos Tsitsipas.


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Rafael Nadal [1] def. Daniil Medvedev 6-7(3) 6-3 7-6(4)

Having admitted that he was still match-fitness short, Rafael Nadal came out with a lot to prove in this US Open final rematch against Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev had not played badly in his first match but had just been outsmarted. With Nadal still perhaps, a couple pf matches short of where he would like to be, Medvedev looked clinical in the early stages being the only one to even have a break point chance in the first set.

Trading mini-breaks at the start of the tie-break it was Medvedev that pulled ahead for the first set, leaving a mountain to climb for Nadal. The Spaniard started the second set well though, breaking immediately and holding on to that all the way through to delivering the final blow with a break for the set.

Medvedev was not done and came back from his mental meanderings with two straight breaks of the Nadal serve.  Nadal even had to save a match point serving to stay in the match at 1-5 before reeling five games in a row to take the lead 6-5, leaving Medvedev to force a tie-break.

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The tie-break was nip-and-tuck until Medvedev’s last two serves, broken for Nadal to stage a Houdini-esque escape.

It was a complete unravelling of Medvedev, who admitted: “I just need to close out such matches. I mean probably need to still continue working mentally as I do every day to be better.

“Today was not the case. I mean, there were many things to tell not good about my mentality on the court, my attitude. So hopefully I’m not going to have matches like this in my career, but we never know. I’m going to try my best to not have them.”

Nadal had a lot of sympathy for Medvedev, of course having pegged him back at the US Open in their decider.

He said: “Daniil is super tough mentally. He showed everybody during all this year what he achieved. If you are not able to be very solid mentally, is impossible, honestly.

“So today is one of these days that, as I said on the court, one time of one thousand you lose this match, and it happened today. Very happy for that. Very sorry for him, honestly, because lose a match like this is tough, and it’s painful. I feel very sorry for Daniil. He’s a good guy, I think, and anyway, he should be very proud about all the things that he’s doing.”


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Stefanos Tsitsipas [6] def. Alexander Zverev [7] 6-3, 6-2

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Of the three debutantes at the Nitto ATP Finals this year, it is just Stefanos Tsitsipas so far who has a ‘w’ (or indeed two) to his name. He put together the match of a lifetime to overturn a 0-5 head to head against Medvedev, and then stunned the defending champion Alexander Zverev for the loss of just five games.

Tsitsipas has such variety and he showed that to great measure against Medvedev coming in a lot and more important at the right times. He has the right measure of patience and attack, and he repeated this against Zverev.

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He frustrated the German and left him on the back-foot throughout the match. There was none of the aggressive, attacking tennis that earned Zverev his first win in six attempts. Instead his body language drifted back to the negativity we have seen before. He had no answers for anything that was being thrown at him.

Things started competitively enough and had he been able to convert his break point chance, it could have been a very different scenario, but Tsitsipas made good on his own chance a couple of games later for a decisive break before serving out for the first set.

What little resistance that Zverev had left in that instant – broken at the start of the second set and again in the middle, capitulating to the newcomer.

Zverev said, after the match: “I’m in the same situation I was last year, pretty much exactly the same. I mean, I lost the second match quite easily. Didn’t, you know, play my best.

“But, you know, my chances are in my hands. I’m looking forward to it. There is nothing I can do about today now. He played a fantastic match, I thought. I played really bad.

“At this level, this is how it goes when somebody plays great and you don’t play your best. It can go this way, especially against him who I think this surface, these conditions fit him quite well.”

Tsitsipas was rightly proud of his achievement as he has not only qualified for the semi-finals on his first time out, but out of all the debutantes, he is the only one (so far) to win a round robin, although he faces Nadal next.

He said: “It was a good performance. It’s really good to know that I’ll be playing in the semi-finals, but I’ve got to concentrate, keep going the way I have been doing things the last couple of days.

“My last encounter in groups against Rafa, which I am aware of that he’s a difficult opponent to face. I’m sure this match is going to mean a lot to him for a chance for him to make it to the semi-finals, as well.

“So I’m going to give it my all. I’m going to try to give my soul, and I think it’s also a very good challenge for me in order to prepare for more difficult matches in the semi-finals and the finals potentially, so this match is going to give me a lot. It’s going to educate me, and I’m going to try to get and absorb as much as I can from that.”

The final group matches will take place on Friday.


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