Here is Kevin Mitchell’s report from a very eventful semi-final day. That’s all from me today. Thank you for following this evening and we will be back tomorrow for the final match of this peculiar season.
This time last year, Daniil Medvedev failed to see out a 5-1 third set lead against Rafael Nadal, eventually losing after holding match point. He finished his ATP Finals debut 0-3 and miserable. A year later, he has his first ever win over Nadal and he enters the final with a perfect 4-0 record. Growth.
Like Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev defeated both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal this week to reach the final. This may be a strange, unique year, but this feels like a significant moment.
Daniil Medvedev reaches the final with a 3-6 7-6(4) 6-3 win over Rafael Nadal
Over an hour after Nadal served for the match at 6-3 *5-4, Medvedev recovers to pull off one of the biggest wins of his career. He will face Dominic Thiem in the final.
at 6.02pm EST
Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-7(4) *3-5 Daniil Medvedev
Another great hold for Medvedev. He opened with two unreturned serves to reach 30-15, then Nadal netted a backhand. On game point, Medvedev unloaded on a huge winning forehand down-the-line to move to within a game of the final.
Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-7(4) 3-4* Daniil Medvedev
After ample effort and three break points, Medvedev breaks. At 30-40, Nadal saved the first break point with a cool ace down the T. He moved up to game point, but was dragged back to break point after consecutive Medvedev passing shot winners. Nadal saved the second break point with a vicious winning crosscourt forehand.
However, on the third break point Medvedev broke the monotony of a long exchange by sneaking into the net and eventually nailing his overhead.
at 6.13pm EST
Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-7(4) *3-3 Daniil Medvedev
Medvedev was pulled back to deuce from 40-15 after a vicious, winning Nadal inside-out forehand scuppered the first break point and then Medvedev missed a lob on the second one. The danger did not last long. At deuce, Nadal netted a forehand and then Medvedev slammed down an unreturned serve to hold.
Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-7(4) 3-2* Daniil Medvedev
Nadal holds serve but it was a brilliant game from both with a series of varied points with so much thought into every shot. From 15-30, Nadal pulled off a winning serve and volley. At 30-30, an endless rally followed as Nadal threw in a series of slice backhands before unloading on an enormous backhand down-the-line. Medvedev swatted the game point away with a fantastic backhand down-the-line return winner as Nadal attempted to serve and volley.
At deuce, Nadal changed things up with a winning backhand drop shot. He finished with an unreturned serve.
at 5.35pm EST
Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-7(4) *2-2 Daniil Medvedev
Another hold on the board for Medvedev, this time to 30. Medvedev netted a forehand to pull Nadal back into 30-30. A long rally ensued on Medvedev’s second serve, which Nadal ended when he attempted to unload on a forehand down-the-line and sent his strike well wide. Medvedev finished with an unreturned serve.
Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-7(4) 2-1* Daniil Medvedev
Nadal keeps himself ahead with an authoritative hold to 30. At 30-15, he drew out another Medvedev error with a series of backhand slices, then he sealed the hold with a big unreturned serve.
Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-7(4) *1-1 Daniil Medvedev
Medvedev breezes through his opening service game with a quick hold to love. He opened with an easy overhead winner behind a big serve, slammed down an unreturned serve at 30-0 and closed it off with help from a Nadal forehand error.
Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-7(4) 1-0* Daniil Medvedev
Good work from Nadal to clear his first hurdle in the final set, saving break point with a big serve-forehand combination. From deuce, he found two consecutive big serves to hold. Good serving.
That was an astonishing effort from Medvedev, who looked down and out as Nadal served for the match at 6-3 *5-4. Medvedev responded with a top quality series of returns, breaking Nadal’s serve to love. We know that Medvedev is extremely intelligent and he is very, very good, but it is also nice to see him once more demonstrate his fighting spirit in an important match. Now it is time for Nadal to regroup.
Daniil Medvedev pulls level with Rafael Nadal at 3-6, 7-6(4)
An incredible slice of luck proved to be the difference at 4-3 as Medvedev guessed correctly on a big Nadal forehand and then shanked a lob over Nadal’s head in response. Medvedev followed it up with an unreturned serve at 5-3 to reach triple set point.
On the second set point, he closed it off by demolishing an incredible winning backhand down-the-line after a long point. We are off to a third set.
at 5.08pm EST
Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-6 (4-2) Daniil Medvedev
Medvedev leads by one mini-break as they change ends. At 1-1, Medvedev ended a stunning rally with a huge inside out forehand winner after flipping defence into offence. Medvedev followed it up with an ace to move up 3-1. Then he crushed a glorious jumping crosscourt backhand, forcing a Nadal forehand error. Nadal pegged one point back with a point-ending overhead.
at 4.59pm EST
Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-6 Daniil Medvedev
Nadal gets himself back on track with some great serving. From 0-15, he produced a serve-forehand 1-2 punch, then he landed an overhead winner behind a big serve. At 30-15, he landed a big unreturned serve. Medvedev sent a backhand into the net at 40-15. We are off to a tiebreak.
Rafael Nadal 6-3 *5-6 Daniil Medvedev
Medvedev restores his lead with a quick hold to 15. After some great serving, he finished with a nice serve and volley.
Rafael Nadal 6-3 5-5* Daniil Medvedev
That was a tough service game from Nadal, who lost his serve to love with a forehand shank on game point.
Still, brilliant work from Medvedev. Under immense pressure, he landed every return and put Nadal under pressure with suffocating depth the whole time.
at 4.48pm EST
Rafael Nadal 6-3 *5-4 Daniil Medvedev
Oh how the tables have turned. Nadal wins his fourth game in a row and, out of nowhere, he will serve for the match! Nadal drew a backhand error from Medvedev at 15-30 with a wicked, low slice. At 30-30, Medvedev handed over another backhand error to bring up break point. Nadal dismounted with a tough of genius, lifting an incredible backhand lob over Medvedev’s head.
at 5.19pm EST
Rafael Nadal 6-3 4-4* Daniil Medvedev
From *1-4 30-40, Nadal pulls level at 4-4 with a great hold to 15. Nadal produced two unreturned serves and a couple of vicious forehands that forced Medvedev errors. Just what Nadal needed.
Rafael Nadal 6-3 *3-4 Daniil Medvedev
It looked like Medvedev was heading to a hold after nailing two unreturned serves from 15-30 down, Instead, Nadal pulled him back to deuce with a destructive crosscourt backhand winner after a long, high octane point. Nadal reached break point by just doing enough with his backhand slice after a Medvedev drop shot.
Medvedev saved the break point with an ace, but Nadal immediately generated a second with an overhead winner after crunching a series of forehands. On the second break point, Nadal nailed a spectacular angled forehand passing shot winner. Suddenly, we are back on serve.
Rafael Nadal 6-3 2-4* Daniil Medvedev
A good hold from Nadal, who had to save a break point after opening the game with some sloppy errors. From 30-40, he saved the break point by drilling a winning backhand down-the-line. From deuce, he found two big unreturned serves to keep himself in the set.
Rafael Nadal 6-3 *1-4 Daniil Medvedev
A great service game by Medvedev to retain his break. From 15-15, he crushed a backhand down-the-line winner, confidently navigated the net before finishing with a backhand drive volley winner at 30-15 and then he slammed down an ace at 40-15.
Medvedev has still lost only one point on his serve in this set.
at 4.51pm EST
Rafael Nadal 6-3 1-3* Daniil Medvedev
Nadal pieces together his easiest service game of the day when he needed it, breezing through a quick hold to love.
Rafael Nadal 6-3 *0-3 Daniil Medvedev
In the blink of an eye, the momentum has shifted. Medvedev strolled through a second love hold in a row, this time closing it off with a lovely drop volley after some great serving.
Rafael Nadal 6-3 0-2* Daniil Medvedev
It is fair to say that Medvedev has indeed regrouped. He opened the return game with some incredible defence, nailing an angled backhand passing shot before sweeping up the subsequent forehand. At 15-15, he nailed a backhand crosscourt winner.
Then Nadal did the rest. After a forehand error at 15-30, Nadal then double faulted on the first break point. An ugly ending.
Rafael Nadal 6-3 *0-1 Daniil Medvedev
With 4/4 first serves and plenty of free points, Medvedev breezes through an easy hold to love.
Exactly what he needed. Medvedev was playing extremely well and he had actually landed 16/16 first serves until his first serve went missing at 4-3. This is no crisis. He just needs to regroup.
Rafael Nadal takes the first set 6-3 on Daniil Medvedev
After a tricky start, Nadal soared in the second half of the set to close it off with three games in a row. From 15-30 down, Nadal found an unreturned second serve, then a winning serve and volley at 30-30. On the first set point, he nailed a brilliant forehand down-the-line passing shot.
Nadal still isn’t serving great – he finished with 42% first serves in – but it was good enough.
at 4.35pm EST
Nadal backhand spins
Today: 27% topspin and 73% slice
Rest of tournament: 74% topspin, 26% slice
Rafael Nadal *5-3 Daniil Medvedev
After all of his earlier battles, it’s Nadal who makes the first move, breaking Medvedev’s serve to love. Nadal opened with a vicious down-the-line forehand to move up 0-15 and set the tone. At 0-30, Nadal showed astonishing footwork, sweeping around the ball and unloading on an enormous inside out forehand winner.
The first break point produced a long, exhausting rally with Medvedev on the front foot as Nadal attempted to draw out an error with a series of backhand slices. Eventually, Medvedev moved forward on a short ball but sent his forehand long.
After opening the match with some tremendous serving, Medvedev missed all four first serves and he was punished for it.
Rafael Nadal 4-3* Daniil Medvedev
A much simpler hold for Nadal to retain his narrow lead. At 30-15, Nadal once again drew out a netted backhand error from Medvedev with a low backhand slice. Medvedev scuppered the first game point by chasing down a decent Nadal slice and sweeping it away with his forehand. On the second game point, Nadal dragged Medvedev wide with a series of typical crosscourt forehands, eventually drawing an error.
Rafael Nadal *3-3 Daniil Medvedev
An unreturned serve and two aces from Medvedev en-route to a quick hold to 15. This is all very easy on his serve so far.
We have already seen a couple of serve and volley attempts from Nadal and, given Medvedev’s deep return position, we will see more.
He is unsurprisingly trying to mix up his shots as much as possible and particularly to expose Medvedev’s flat strokes with his low, biting slice. Just a few too many errors early on from Nadal.
Rafael Nadal 3-2* Daniil Medvedev
Nadal once again left himself with some work to do, this time falling down 15-30. He handled it well once again, forcing a forehand error from Medvedev after a tough, physical point at 15-30. At 30-30, he switched things up with a serve and volley attempt, finishing with a lovely backhand drop volley. One further Medvedev forehand error on game point sealed the hold.
at 3.59pm EST
Rafael Nadal *2-2 Daniil Medvedev
No such problems for Medvedev on serve. He breezed through a quick hold to 30, slamming down a serve-forehand combination at 15-15 and then a very nice drop shot winner at 30-15. On his second game point, he slammed down an unreturned serve.
Rafael Nadal 2-1* Daniil Medvedev
A really good hold from Nadal, who saves three break points in a fairly long deuce game. After a few sloppy errors from Nadal at deuce to bring up the break points, Nadal saved the first break point thanks to a Medvedev backhand error. On Medvedev’s second and third break points, Nadal found two big unreturned serves.
At deuce, Nadal switched things up, playing a great drop shot-lob combination before crushing a forehand down-the-line. He finished with another unreturned serve. Good work.
Rafael Nadal *1-1 Daniil Medvedev
A very good start from Medvedev, too. He opened his first service game with two brutal backhand winners, one crosscourt and one down-the-line. He reached 40-0 with an ace, then he closed it out with another vicious backhand down-the-line, forcing a Nadal backhand error. Both men are already dialled in.
at 3.42pm EST
Rafael Nadal 1-0* Daniil Medvedev
A nice hold from Nadal to begin. We already got a glimpse of what will work for him today. After a forehand error the first point, Nadal responded with a quick serve and volley. We will be seeing much more of him at the net.
After being pulled to 30-30, Nadal battered the Medvedev backhand, then swept a lovely inside out forehand winner. At 40-30, Nadal varied his groundstrokes with slices, loopy backhands and heavy forehands. Eventually, a slice drew a backhand error.
at 3.25pm EST
Q. You go up against Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals. How much would you say he’s improved since the US Open? I know it’s a different format, but he seems a completely different player now. Do you know what to expect?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I don’t know if he’s completely different player. I don’t think nobody is completely different player, no? I think he’s playing great, but we can’t forget that last year he played amazing too. You know, he played the final in Washington, final in Montreal, winning Cincinnati, final US Open. Then he won in Shanghai and I think a couple more tournaments. So better than this is very difficult, no? He’s playing amazing this year for sure now. He played semifinals in New York and now winning in Paris, and winning two matches here of course he has plenty of confidence and playing very, very high level. But we are in the semifinals of the World Tour Finals so we can’t expect another story, no? Playing against the best players in good shape. I know I need to play at my 100% if I want to have chances, and that’s what I’m gonna try.
Q. Your thoughts going into the semifinal, and obviously it’s a complete turnaround from last year, but your thoughts going into playing Rafa in the semis.
DANIIL MEDVEDEV: Yeah, as I always say, I enjoy playing Rafa, Novak, and Roger. They are idols of me growing up when I first started to be interested in tennis. Basically when I started playing it, Roger was already there I think winning almost everything. Then Rafa came to make his marks, and then Novak came to try to disturb them all the time (smiling). So always great to play against them. Really looking forward to the match. Feeling confident. I think Rafa is also. Played a great match yesterday. I need to show my best tennis to have the opportunity to win.
Q. You have kind of mentioned the match against Rafa here last year a couple of times. How much will you think about that kind of in the buildup to tomorrow’s match or not at all?
DANIIL MEDVEDEV: Oh, to be honest, not at all, just in terms of tactics for sure maybe a little bit, remember something from last year, because actually I was close to winning it, but a new match is a new match. It’s one year already. So even though we all know who is Rafa, everybody changes. So I’m sure he changed few small things in his game. I changed mine. So new match is never the same. You know, even you can play him — as we say, in round robin you can play, you can win, and then you can lose in the final, something like this. I’m just looking for tomorrow and not thinking at all about last year, as I say, except some tactical points of view.
Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev have arrived on-court. We will begin shortly.
at 3.31pm EST
Here are highlights from Dominic Thiem’s earlier win over Novak Djokovic.
And here are highlights of last year’s match. It must be said that this encounter should have limited relevance from both. Nadal was still getting back up to speed after struggling with injury in the week leading up to the ATP Finals and Medvedev was exhausted after his efforts in his breakthrough season.
Here are those antics mentioned below. Classic.
at 1.46pm EST
Hello! Welcome to our coverage on semi-final day of the ATP Finals from the O2 Arena as Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev compete for the second spot in tomorrow’s final.
Earlier today, Dominic Thiem overcame Novak Djokovic in a nervy encounter, squandering four match points in the second set before bulldozing everything in his path from 0-4 down in the third set tiebreak to win. After that rematch of the 2020 Australian Open final, we have a rematch of the 2019 US Open final tonight.
Of all the outstanding performers in London, Medvedev has probably produced the highest, most consistent level throughout and he is yet to drop a set. He even had no problems navigating a potentially tricky dead rubber against Diego Schwartzman last night, swatting aside the Argentine without wasting any energy. He is serving, returning, defending and countering at such a high level and this will be extremely tough.
Thankfully for Nadal, he is also playing extremely well. Although he was unable to find his best tennis in the important moments, he was one half of one of the highest quality matches of the year against Dominic Thiem, eventually losing in two tiebreaks. Despite a short 10 minute blip from the end of set two, he produced another convincing performance against Stefanos Tsitsipas to secure his place in this semi-final.
Nadal, of course, has never won the ATP Finals and every year we have the same discussions over his failure to produce his best tennis indoors. We should talk more about how, particularly in the past two seasons, he has managed to adapt his game on this surface. His heavy topspin may not be as troublesome on this surface but he is producing some of the best serving of his career and he is also taking advantage of his excellent volleys and net sense by moving forward to the net as much as he ever has in the past. He is really fun to watch on this surface and hopefully he will be again today. Let’s see who wins.
at 1.51pm EST
Daniil Medvedev is 0-3 against Rafael Nadal, but he is getting closer and closer. After being demolished 6-3 6-0 in the Montreal final last year, they played a wildly entertaining US Open final in which Medvedev, after all of the antics that led up to the match, recovered from two sets down to push him to a tight 5th set.
Last year at the ATP Finals, Medvedev led 5-1 in the third set and held a match point before watching the match slip from his grasp. As he prepared for his first match this week, he plainly called it a choke. Few would argue with him.
at 1.45pm EST