Alexander Zverev aims to remain unbeaten against Daniil Medvedev in a youthful Shanghai Masters final.
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Into his sixth straight final, Daniil Medvedev will have to beat Alexander Zverev for the first time in their history to claim his second Masters 1000 Series title in Shanghai.
Medvedev is trying to become just the second man since Zverev himself, other than the Big Four, to claim multiple Masters 1000 Series titles since 2007 when David Nalbandian won Madrid and Paris.
This will be, unbelievably, the ninth ATP Tour final of Medvedev’s season – no other player has reached more than five – and the sixth that he has reached in as many tournaments, a 28-3 record that stretches back to Wimbledon and now spans North America, where he reached the finals of Washington, the Canada Masters, Cincinnati and the US Open; Russia, where he won St Petersburg; and China, where he resumed winning ways without so much as blinking despite having taken a couple of weeks off for the first time since before this run started.
The oldest man in the first Masters semifinal lineup since 1999 to feature four players under 24, 23-year-old Medvedev hasn’t dropped a set in the eight matches he’s played since losing the US Open final to Rafael Nadal – and he’s faced some quality opposition. After starting out with a routine win over qualifier Cameron Norrie, Medvedev had to take down the big-serving Vasek Pospisil 7-6(7), 7-5 before edging tenth seed Fabio Fognini 6-3, 7-6(4) and finally ousting Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(5), 7-5 in Saturday’s semifinals.
Tsitsipas came into the match on a high after beating Novak Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinals and securing his Nitto ATP Finals spot to boot, and he didn’t play at all badly for the most part against Medvedev. In a high-quality first set, Medvedev was just that touch sharper in the tie-break, edging it as Tsitsipas’s forehand strayed, and the Russian was once again slightly better in the second to break and give himself an opportunity to serve for the match – only to be broken back to 5-5, throwing a lifeline to Tsitsipas.
Only then did Tsitsipas let himself down, playing a very poor game to hand the advantage back to Medvedev, who would not falter a second time in closing out the win. It was the first of their five meetings that did not go to three sets – and the fifth to end with a victory for Medvedev.
‘Making six [finals] in a row, including three Masters 1000s and one Grand Slam, is something I could never dream of, to be honest,’ Medvedev said. ‘But I want to keep the momentum going and hope I can make it to seven or eight.’
Effective serving has been the thing that’s separated the wheat from the chaff on the fast(er than usual) courts in Shanghai, and Medvedev’s continue to be impressive. He served at ‘only’ 64% against Tsitsipas, but won 36 of the 43 points played on his first serve and 16 of the 24 behind second serve – not quite as superb as his serving performance against Fognini in the previous round, but against a better returner, and consistent with the high level of serving he’s produced throughout the week.
He will need it again as he takes on Alexander Zverev in the final, because while Tsitsipas was 0-4 against Medvedev coming into their Shanghai clash, Medvedev is 0-4 against Zverev.
While Medvedev is locked into a winning groove and needing to keep it going despite a change of continents, Zverev’s run in Shanghai has been all about a dramatic resurgence after a poor season (although, as I have pointed out before, not so poor as to be out of contention for a place at the ATP Finals).
Indeed, Zverev is now all but guaranteed a place in London – where he is the defending champion – after his run this week, with his semifinal victory over fellow contender Matteo Berrettini giving him a crucial lead on Berrettini, David Goffin and Roberto Bautista Agut which makes it unlikely he will be overtaken.
It’s been about more than the Race to London, however: It’s been all about pride and confidence for Zverev, who has endured a torrid season of criticism, disappointment and early defeats, in addition to being mired in off-court struggles. (He did adopt a puppy however.) Whether or not it can be attributed to the pep talks he received from Roger Federer and Nadal during Laver Cup, where Zverev played a crucial role for Team Europe, or some other factor, Zverev started to show signs of revival when he made the semifinals in Beijing last week, only to backslide dramatically when he lost to Tsitsipas.
But in Shanghai, Zverev has turned the clock back to the way he was playing a year ago when he would go on to win the year-end championships. He had to squeak through an incredibly tight win over Jeremy Chardy in the first round, but since then has gone from strength to strength, beating Andrey Rublev in straight sets and then dominating proceedings against a discombobulated Federer in the quarterfinals. Zverev did falter in that much, unable to serve it out in the second set, but being dragged to a third was also very much about the suddenly brilliant tennis Federer produced, and in that third it was all Zverev.
There was no sign of a letdown against Berrettini today. Zverev took care of business efficiently against the Italian US Open semifinalist, whose big serve and forehand are serious weapons but whose backhand can be a weakness. In the first set, the German took advantage of poor serving from Berrettini with aggressive returning; in the second, he hung in as Berrettini played much better, keeping the pressure on and poised to pounce. Once Berrettini gave up the break at 4-4 with an incautious forehand volley error, Zverev showed no weakness whatsoever in closing out the match 6-3, 6-4.
‘We’ve played some fantastic matches, all going my way until now. I hope tomorrow that will not change. But he’s been playing some fantastic tennis, sixth final in a row, US Open finalist, won Cincinnati,’ Zverev said of the prospect of facing Medvedev.
‘He’s probably the best player in the world right now. I hope it’s just going to be a good match tomorrow.’
Zverev has indeed won all four matches he and Medvedev have played, dropping just one set in the process to boot, but this will be their first meeting in 2019 – and certainly since Medvedev became, as Zverev suggested, the in-form player on the ATP Tour. Yet head-to-heads do not, in general, lie when they are this one-sided.
Medvedev vs Zverev Shanghai Masters tennis is live from Shanghai on Sunday at 4.30pm local/9.30am BST
Medvedev vs Zverev tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Zverev to preserve unbeaten record vs Medvedev in Shanghai final
Alexander Zverev aims to remain unbeaten against Daniil Medvedev in a youthful Shanghai Masters final. *Geo-restrictions apply. Streams available to…
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