Daniil Medvedev’s ATP Finals debut last year proved to be a chastening experience as he suffered three defeats but on Monday the Russian made his mark with an opening win against 2018 champion Alexander Zverev.
The 24-year-old’s 6-3, 6-4 win put him joint top of the Tokyo Group alongside World No.1 Novak Djokovic, who had put on a master-class to trounce debutant Diego Schwartzman.
Medvedev, who will face Djokovic on Wednesday, will take heart from the fact that the Serb also lost all three of his group matches on his debut in 2007 but returned a year later to beat Nikolay Davydenko to claim the title in Shanghai.
Medvedev will not be short of confidence though after a superb display against Zverev who once again struggled to control his serving gremlins.
“I actually didn’t know that he (Djokovic) was 0-3 in his first appearance,” said Medvedev, who had beaten Zverev to win the Paris Masters.
“I also saw today that he’s won 12 consecutive opening (group) matches at the ATP finals so hopefully I can do the same. I like to play against Novak and I’m looking forward to it.”
The opening games against Zverev were curious.
Medvedev gifted up his first service game with a double-fault, then Zverev served three double-faults in succession to hand the break back. Medvedev, initially struggling with his forehand, then survived a break point in the third game, winning a brutal rally with some incredible court coverage.
Zverev worked overtime trying to stay level at 2-3, only to throw away the game with consecutive double-faults. From then on Medvedev was too solid, taking the first set with an ace and breaking in the seventh game of the second set as Zverev again wavered.
Medvedev, one of the sharpest thinkers on a tennis court, threw in an underarm serve at 4-3, 30-30 but served out in more conventional fashion at 5-4 to seal the win.
“It was not good enough to beat a top 10 player today. If I play like today I won’t win any matches this week,” said Zverev.
The results: Group Tokyo 1970: 4-Daniil Medvedev (Rus) v 5-Alexander Zverev (Ger) 6-3, 6-4.
Doubles: Group Bob Bryan: 1-Mate Pavic (Cro) & Bruno Soares (Bra) bt 7-Jurgen Melzer (Aut) & Edouard Roger-Vasselin (Fra) 6-7(6), 6-1, [10-4].