Nitto ATP Finals 2019: Daniil Medvedev's chances of winning the title
When Alexander Zverev dashed Novak Djokovic's hopes of conquering the prestigious ATP Finals title for a staggering sixth time in 2018, there was little doubt that the young German was the legitimate leader of the ATP NextGen.
A year later, the NextGen threat is still very much lingering in the air at the ATP Finals scheduled to begin in London from November 10. This time, however, it is mostly from Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev's rise in these last few months has been nothing short of phenomenal. From being a virtual nobody 12 months ago to being one of the biggest contenders for the year-end championships where the creme de la creme of men's tennis assemble, Medvedev has skyrocketed into the big league faster than anybody could ever imagine.
Before he actually burst on to the scene post the Wimbledon Championships, he had been quietly planting the seeds for his success. The eye-catching wins did elude him but his herculean efforts did not escape anybody's notice.
When he managed to snatch a set from eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round of the Australian Open, he did make an impact even though in a losing cause.
But even before that, he had already underlined his ambitions with a superb run to the final at Brisbane before losing to Kei Nishikori in three sets.
After an ATP 250 title at Sofia, Medvedev turned the tables on Djokovic on the clay courts of Monte Carlo and then finished as the runner-up in Barcelona. He, however, lost his way after that, bowing out in first rounds in four consecutive tournaments and also failed to reach a final on grass.
If anybody thought Medvedev's challenge was over, then they were in for a surprise. They say defeats make you stronger and there can be no better example than the 23-year-old.
Medvedev got bruised and battered in so many three-set matches all through the year, but with each loss, his hunger only grew more. A quick learner of the game as he is, he studied each of his close losses in an attempt to decipher what really went wrong. His perseverance and dedication to his craft only bolstered his confidence and made him believe that the sun will shine his way one day.
And so it did! When the US Open Series began, Medvedev started writing his own destiny himself. The diligent Medvedev's brilliant run was stopped in the final of Washington by Nick Kyrgios. It didn't deter him and he set on his mission to build on it, which he did in the very next tournament at the Montreal Masters.
It only took someone like Rafael Nadal to stop him from taking the title. Two consecutive final losses did not shatter him and he won his very first ATP Masters 1000 title right after that in Cincinnati after accounting for the likes of Novak Djokovic.
Medvedev's stupendous problem-solving skills on the court were laid bare for everyone to see, other than his awe-inspiring speed and movement, which is unusual for a man of his height. Perhaps his affinity for chess and mathematics helped in his clarity of thought process on the court as well.
This was all evident when he came storming back from two sets down against someone as feisty as Rafael Nadal at the US Open summit clash. Even the indefatigable Spaniard got a scare when the Russian refused to buckle under pressure and kept up the fight deep into the fifth set before finally accepting defeat.
Medvedev's tremendous resilience and fighting spirit won the hearts of every tennis fan that night even though he could not lay his hands on the trophy. Never the one to brood over his losses, he rebounded in style to build a nine-match winning streak en route to the titles at St. Petersburg and Shanghai Masters.
After making it to the finals of six consecutive tournaments and triumphing in three, the NextGen ace finally stumbled to an uncharacteristic opening-round loss at the Paris Masters.
Perhaps the defeat will eventually turn out to be a boon for the Russian, who is now perched at a career-high No. 4 ranking. Medvedev has arrived in London after a well-earned rest and will be raring to go with new zeal after having posted a Tour-leading 59 victories this year. Placed in Group Andre Agassi, Medvedev can very much fancy his chances of winning the title on his debut at the season finale.
With Rafael Nadal being hampered by an abdominal strain, the Russian could actually bring his fabulous footwork and his swashbuckling game of placement and precision to trouble the World No. 1. If Nadal is not able to find his best form, the fourth seed could very much topple the 19-time Grand Slam champion.
Stefanos Tsitsipas and defending champion Alexander Zverev are the other names huddled in the same group. Zverev does enjoy the advantage of a 4-1 edge in their head-to-head record but Medvedev's recent 6-4, 6-1 mastery of the German in Shanghai doesn't raise many hopes for the World No. 7.
As for Tsitsipas, Medvedev has proved to be an insurmountable wall with all five of their meetings going the Russian's way.
If Medvedev can continue to show the conviction in his abilities like he has done for the past few months, he very much has the capability to make it to the semi-finals and even progress from there to become the second NextGen player to win the ATP Finals title.