In a virtual quarterfinal at the Nitto ATP finals on Thursday evening in London, Rafael Nadal diffused Stefanos Tsitsipas’ challenge 6-4 4-6 6-2 in just over two hours at the O2 arena to book a semifinal place in the year-ending finals for the sixth time in his career. The World No.2 double faulted at the worst possible time when he was facing a set point in the 2nd set to hand Tsistipas the set. But 34-year-old Spaniard, using all his years of experience, closed the door for Tsitsipas in the third, breaking the young Greek thrice in the set to finally seal the semifinal berth, his first instance of reaching the last four at the O2 arena since 2015.
In the upcoming semifinal, the 34-year-old Spaniard will lock horns against the man in-form, Daniil Medvedev, to contest for a spot in Sunday’s final as he hopes to clinch the year-ending finals title this year, the trophy that has been missing from his trophy cabinet in spite of being in the finals twice so far in his illustrious career.
While Nadal had to work extremely hard to grab a place in the semifinal, his opponent Medvedev sealed the semifinal spot in style after he beat Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in straight sets. The 24-year-old Russian is on a roll and is on a seven-match winning streak (he still has to face Diego Schwartzman in a dead rubber before he takes on Nadal in the semi-final) since the Paris Masters 1000, losing just two sets en route his triumph at the final Masters 1000 of the season.
The upcoming semifinal at the Nitto ATP Finals between Nadal and Medvedev will be their 4th meeting on the ATP tour and Nadal dominates their rivalry 3-0 so far. In their last meeting, which was coincidentally also at the Nitto ATP finals, back in 2019, Nadal crawled his way back from being a match point down at 1-5 (30-40) in the 3rd set to sensationally overcome the young Russian 6-7(3) 6-3 7-6(4) in their round-robin encounter at London.
Medvedev had an ordinary year before he landed in Paris to play the Paris Masters 1000 almost three weeks ago, but his fortunes have changed ever since as he captured his first title of the season at the French Capital and hasn’t looked back ever since, defeating the likes of Milos Raonic, Diego Schwartzman and Zverev at Paris and then Djokovic and Zverev at the season-ending finals so far.
At this year’s season ending finals, we are witnessing a vastly improved version of Nadal as he is fresh and has beautifully adapted his game to the demands of the indoor hard courts. He has been serving well, constantly ticking that 120-mph mark on his first serve to go along with a stronger game at the net. However, against Medvedev, the Spaniard will be against a stiff challenge as the Russian relishes the indoor conditions and his fast service games and relentless defense from the baseline has been having a detrimental effect on his opponents.
One factor that can work against Medvedev, though, is the scheduling of his semifinal. He will take on Schwartzman in the evening session on Friday and does not have any break between matches as he is again slated to play his semifinal in the afternoon session on Saturday. On the other hand, Nadal, who played in the evening session on Thursday, will have enough time to regroup mentally and physically and strategize as he locks horns against Medvedev in their crucial semifinal tie.
While Medvedev seems to have the momentum behind him, this year might be the best chance for the Spaniard to go the distance at the season-ending finals as he hopes to end his title drought at the season-ending finals to sign off the year on a tremendous high.
Can Nadal tame Medvedev to keep his hopes of winning the Nitto ATP finals alive or will Medvedev continue his run to ascend a step closer to winning his biggest title so far of his career?
Irrespective of the result, the Nadal-Medvedev semifinal tie has all the makings of a nail-biting, an edge of a seat thriller!
Main Photo from Getty.