Daniil Medvedev has jumped to the head of the queue of young pretenders after capturing the biggest title of his career by beating Dominic Thiem 4-6 7-6(2) 6-4 in an absorbing climax to London’s last ATP Finals.
Thiem was on course to become the first Austrian to win the title, following on from his recent US Open triumph, but the relentless Medvedev turned the tide to strike a blow for the new generation striving to shake up the tennis hierarchy.
There was no big celebration as the 24-year-old Russian fired an unreturnable first serve on match point to end the two hours and 42 minutes scrap, bringing the curtain down on 12 years at the O2 Arena before Turin takes over as host of the season-end showpiece tournament.
But the millions watching on TV will have appreciated the skill of world No.4 Medvedev, who became only the fourth player in ATP history to beat the world’s top three at the same tournament.
He joined David Nalbandian (Madrid 2007), Novak Djokovic (Montreal 2007) and Boris Becker (Stockholm 1994).
Medvedev’s imaginative game, a blend of sledgehammer power, cunning angles and unreadable serving, proved beyond world No.1 Djokovic in the group phase and then second-ranked Rafael Nadal in Saturday’s semi-final.
It’s amazing,” said Medvedev, who earned $US1.56 million ($2.1 million) as an unbeaten champion. “I beat Novak, Rafa and Dominic, the best players in tennis right now. It shows what I’m capable of.”
Medvedev completed a hat-trick of ATP Finals titles for the new generation as he followed in the footsteps of Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Neither the 23-year-old German nor the 22-year-old Greek has so far managed to turn his breakthrough into success on the grand slam stage, with Djokovic and Nadal continuing to dominate the majors, but change will have to come eventually.
Medvedev, who pushed Nadal to five sets in his first slam final in New York last year, said: “Hopefully all of us young guys will continue pushing, will have some great rivalries.
“Hopefully we can be there for a long time, maybe pushing the other generations back, because that’s how we can be close to the top three. They probably went through two, three generations without dropping their level, which is not easy.
“But what is definitely good from us, from Dominic, from me, we managed both to beat Rafa and Novak, which is an amazing accomplishment.”
Thiem became the first new slam champion since 2014 when he lifted the US Open title in September, albeit without having to beat Djokovic, Nadal or Roger Federer.
He said: “I think it’s super important for the sport because Roger, Rafa, Nole (Djokovic) and also Andy (Murray), they did so much for the sport. I think they brought so many people to tennis.
“There is going to be a time when they are not around anymore, and then it’s going to be so important to keep all the tennis fans.
“I think that’s our challenge, that we perform well, that we play great in big tournaments, that we become huge stars ourselves. That’s our challenge, to keep all those people with tennis and to maybe continue their story.”