In 2009 the first year it was held in London, it was Nikolay Davydenko who won the title and this year, the last in London, he was doing commentary for Russian TV, while Daniil Medvedev had the honour of holding the trophy.
The biggest title of Medvedev’s young career made him the sixth different champion in as many years. In the 51 editions of the event, which began in Tokyo in 1970 and was won by Stan Smith, only once before has something like that happened, between 1974 and 1979.
Dominic Thiem was denied the title for the second year in a row, last year losing a final set tiebreak to Stefanos Tsitsipas. In the longest best of three set final in the event’s history, Medvedev scored a 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 victory in two hours 42 minutes. This was an outstanding match and so worthy of being a final in the last match of the year.
“My level of game here and especially my last two matches I won, are just unbelievable and I think it can give me a lot for my future career and to beat Dominic and the way he played today is probably my best victory of my life, and that’s not just talking about the title itself,” Medvedev said.
“To win (the ATP Finals) undefeated … I know I can play good, but honestly I would not believe it if I was told this before the tournament. It is a great boost of confidence for all the Slams coming up, and all the tournaments. Hopefully I can continue this next year,”
Medvedev has become the first player to beat each of the world’s top three at the season-ending championship. He accounted for Novak Djokovic in the round robin competition, Rafa Nadal in the semis and Thiem in the final. He is also the first undefeated champion since Grigor Dimitrov in 2017.
The level of tennis played by the two young guns was quite extraordinary at times. There were exceptional rallies, outstanding athleticism, fabulous points as all aspects of the court was used. It is such a shame and sad that the last event at the O2 in London, which has hosted up to 20,000 fans a session in the past, was empty.
The final was close right till the end. Certainly, Thiem had his fair share of chances. He was slicing the ball and keeping it low in an effort to make Medvedev hit up. The ploy paid frequently dividends. The first set fell to Thiem when a return he hit clipped the net and ricocheted over Medvedev’s racquet which left both players amused and smiling at one another.
The Austrian had two break points in the vital seventh game of the second set but could not convert. In the tiebreak he went up 2-0 but then inspired play from Medvedev saw him reel off seven consecutive points to force a decider. Medvedev was looking more confident as the third unfolded and he finally broke serve on his ninth break chance which was in the fifth game. He hung onto the advantage to close out the final.
“I have not so much to regret,” Thiem said. “In general, I think, well, two guys faced off each other in great form. It was great level all three sets long. There is actually only one shot which I really regret is at 2-1 in the tiebreak where I hit a great return and then played a stupid forehand. But beside that, I cannot really regret something.
“Yeah, I mean, in general, it's a good tactic, the slice, especially against Daniil also in the past, so I wanted to use it. I would do the same actually. I mean, the way he broke me in the third set was an unreal game. He put great returns in. I had few chances to convert that game. He played some great rallies there.
“Honestly, I would do the same again, play a lot of slice. So that's it. That's how it is. I mean, this tournament is so tough to win or to play well. Every match is on the edge. Yesterday was on the edge. Today was on the edge. I can only say well done to him, and that's everything today.”
And the exciting aspect of this match is that it seems the young guns are now really making strides to break through the stranglehold of the Big Three and for tennis that is exciting to see. It has been witnessed a few times in 2020 and for sure more of it is to come in 2021.
“We are here because of Novak, Roger, Rafa, and Andy, because first, we were watching them on TV, we thought, okay, we want to be out there playing against them,” Medvedev said. “Hopefully, yeah, the matches like today, the matches again, as at US Open, if we have a lot of matches like this, we definitely going to push each other through all our careers, and hopefully everybody will get the piece of the cake.”