December 3, 2020

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ATP Finals SFs preview & predictions: Djokovic-Thiem & Nadal-Medvedev

5 min read

The ATP Finals have a strong field (Picture: Getty/Metro)

There may be no fans inside the O2 Arena but the ATP Finals will bid farewell to London this year with the strongest possible semi-finals field.

The highest four ranked players in the world, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev, have all qualified for what should be a thrilling pair of matches on Saturday.

Djokovic and Nadal may be the top-ranked players on the planet but they have both had to settle for second place in their respective groups, with Medvedev and Thiem topping Group Tokyo 1970 and Group London 2020 respectively.

Of the remaining field only Djokovic, a five-time winner, has won the tournament before. Thiem was a beaten finalist last season, Nadal is a two-time runner-up and Medvedev is at this stage for the first time.

All four have been to Grand Slam finals in the past, but Medvedev is the only player without a major title to his name.

Here we take a look at the matches and provide a prediction for who will come out on top:

2pm: Dominic Thiem vs Novak Djokovic

Thiem faces Djokovic next (Picture: AFP via Getty)

Thiem, the US Open champion from Austria, arrives in this match in excellent form.

The world No. 3 beat defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in his group stage opener before ousting Nadal in straight sets – in what was the match of the tournament so far.

Having already qualified, he took his foot off the gas for his final round robin tie against Andrey Rublev, but conserved plenty of energy in a straight sets defeat.

It’s been an up-and-down event for Djokovic so far. A lacklustre defeat to Medvedev – in which Andy Murray felt he lacked ‘his usual fight’ – was sandwiched between straight sets wins over Diego Schwartzman and Alexander Zverev.

How motivated Djokovic – who can equal Federer’s record six ATP Finals wins with the title – is remains unclear. He has not won this tournament since 2015 and has made no secret of the fact he has greater priorities.

He will need to be on his game to beat Thiem if he’s in the sort of form he displayed against Nadal. Indeed, a year ago, an inspired Thiem beat Djokovic in similar fashion in the group stages here.

Thiem heads into this match having won four of their last six meetings, although their last saw him beaten in the final of the Australian Open.

What have they said?

Djokovic: ‘You know, every time we got to play I think in the last three, four matches, it was some marathon, thrilling encounters. Five-setter in the finals of Australian Open earlier this year. It’s semi-finals, so I’m expecting a tough battle, no question about it.’

Thiem: ‘It was difficult to keep that amazing intensity like I had in the first two matches. Obviously I wanted to win the match 100%, but still, I mean, the first matches were pretty tough or pretty long. I had a great, great intensity in almost every single rally there.’

Prediction: A lot depends on which Djokovic turns up. If the flat Djokovic of the second match of the group stages arrives, then Thiem will have a glorious opportunity to return to the final, but if the locked-in Djokovic who remains the world’s best player shows up, he will always fancy his chances. There’s not really much in this but I suspect this means that little bit more to Thiem and I’d back him to reach the final in what could be a similar slug fest to last year’s group stages: Thiem in 3

8pm: Daniil Medvedev vs Rafael Nadal

Nadal has been in good form (Picture: Getty)

This is also a match that typically delivers.

Medvedev steamrolled his way into the semi-finals by beating Zverev and Djokovic, setting up a dead rubber for his Friday night match with Schwartzman – but he didn’t take his eye off the prize as he maintained his unbeaten record.

He lost all three of his matches in his first season in London but he has been in fine form this time around and back-to-back straight sets wins over Djokovic and Zverev is not to be sniffed at.

Still, Nadal appears in better form than both Djokovic and Zverev and will provide a step up in test for the lanky Russian.

Medvedev also has some demons to put to bed after, in his words, ‘choking’ in a group stage defeat to Nadal last year.

He was 5-1 up in the deciding set but failed to convert a match point on his way to losing in a tiebreak.

The pair haven’t met since and it will be interesting to see if that defeat plays on his mind. He is yet to beat Nadal in three meetings.

What have they said?

Nadal: ‘It [their 2019 ATP Finals meeting] have been a close match I think. Of course at the end have been a very strange end of the match, no? I think it was a good level of tennis for most of the time, but is true that the end I was lucky and he make a couple of mistakes to close the match.

‘But, yeah, I know it’s a different story. He’s playing great. I think last year he was very tired mentally at the end of the season. I think this year is a different story. He has plenty of confidence Yeah, I know it gonna be a tough one. I know I need to play at my highest level. If not, is almost impossible and I hope to be ready to make that happen.’

Medvedev: ‘I was playing great in all three matches…. I think I was serving pretty good in all three matches. I like playing all of the three [Djokovic, Nadal and Federer] since I was starting to hold the racquet, be interested in tennis. I started to see Grand Slams, first it was Roger winning stuff, then Rafa came to make his mark then it was Novak so it’s a great pleasure to play against all of them so looking forward to tomorrow.’


There’s little between these two, but – having previously written him off in my mind – I’m starting to get a sneaking suspicion this could be Nadal’s year. Medvedev, however, is in ridiculously good form and has everything in his locker to finally get a first win over Nadal. I genuinely see this is a flip of a coin but I’m, reluctantly, going for Nadal in a tight thriller: Nadal in 3.

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