It was always going to be an epic. Novak Djokovic faced Daniil Medvedev in their final group-stage match at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin and the contest certainly delivered after the pre-match anticipation. Djokovic took the opening set before being pegged back as the impressive Medvedev battled and battled. The final set was tense and enthralling before Djokovic eventually pulled away to win.
Novak Djokovic somehow overcome visible struggles in a gruelling encounter with Daniil Medvedev as he preserved his unbeaten record at the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals.
In a breathtaking battle of wills, the Serb outlasted his good friend and rival to eventually complete a 6-3 6-7(5) 7-6(2) victory and his third win on the bounce after having looked physically exhausted.
Indeed, the 21-time Grand Slam champion was shown with his arms shaking as he raised a towel to his face at one changeover in the deciding set, but he dragged himself through to win regardless to take his place in the semi-finals.
Djokovic, the seventh seed in Turin, could hardly have made a stronger start to the match as he stamped his authority on the opening set.
Medvedev, who lost his opening two matches of the group stage, could not match his opponent’s intensity from the back of the court and he struggled on serve under immense pressure.
Djokovic dropped just three games in the first set as he continued the very fine form he has enjoyed at the tournament off the back of two victories in the group stage – over Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev, both in straight sets.
The 35-year-old did not find it easy going in the second set as Medvedev battled brilliantly and there was nothing between the pair in a very tight encounter.
The tie-break could have gone either way and was back-and-forth throughout before the 26-year-old managed to pull away from 5-3 up and ended up sealing it 7-5 to level up the match and take it into a deciding set.
It was a bumpy ride for Djokovic in the seventh game with the final set finely poised at 3-3 as he was taken to an extended deuce. Eventually, he came through to hold under real pressure.
The fourth seed was severely tested again on serve in another extended deuce the next game as Djokovic threw everything at his opponent to try to force a break, albeit to no avail once more.
The tension was palpable as every game was seemingly dragged into a brutal tussle after deuce, and again Djokovic, who was shown to be shaking at a changeover, finally saw his serve broken as Medvedev ruthlessly pounced with an opportunity to serve out for the match.
Incredibly, Medvedev could not close out the match on serve as somehow the Serb found the energy and strength to respond once more and break straight back, making it the longest ATP Finals match in his career.
There was a long delay as the drama ramped up further with Medvedev having to change his shoes due to a broken shoelace and thereafter both players kept their composure superbly well to take the match into a deciding tie-break.
It was at this moment that Djokovic managed to pull away from his dogged opponent with that extra intensity and relentless shot-making. He raced into a 5-1 lead with some sublime play and then closed out what was a truly epic match.
Speaking after the match Djokovic explained that he felt physically unwell during the third set, but was determined to beat a “great rival”.
“I didn’t feel physically so well in the third set to be honest, I struggled a lot to stay physically there,” he said. “It’s a battle, it’s a fight, I’m really proud of being able to find the last drop of energy and necessary focus in order to come back into the match.
“No, no, no,” Djokovic responded when asked if he contemplated pulling out of the match. “To be honest I don’t know, I don’t know what the rules are. I don’t think that if I pull out I won’t be able to play tomorrow, I don’t know, but I wasn’t even thinking about it to be honest.
“This match, against one of the greatest rivals that I have today is very important, regardless of the fact that I have qualified already, I wanted to win.”