Nitto ATP Finals Day 2 Preview: Zverev to begin title defense against Nadal; tournament debutants Medvedev and Tsitsipas to square off
The second day of the 2019 ATP Finals sees Alexander Zverev opening his title defense against two-time finalist from Spain, Rafael Nadal. The other match of the day will witness tournament debutants, Daniil Medvedev of Russia and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, locking horns.
Barring the inaugural edition of the competition, the 1970 ATP Finals, then called the Masters Grand Prix, Zverev's appearance at the 2019 ATP Finals marks the 40th instance of the defending champion of the season-finale returning to defend his title.
However, the young German will be mindful of the fact that history has not been too kind towards defending champions at the season-ending event. Only on 15 occasions has an ATP Finals winner managed to successfully defend his title, with Novak Djokovic the last player to achieve the feat, in 2015.
On that note, here is a preview of the second day of singles action at the 2019 ATP Finals.
#1 Daniil Medvedev (x4) vs Stefanos Tsitsipas (x6)
Tournament debutants Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas kick off the second day of singles action at the 2019 ATP Finals.
Medvedev is the third Russian player to qualify for the prestigious season finale, and the first since Nikolay Davydenko in 2009. Tsitsipas, on the other hand, is the first player from Greece to manage such a feat.
Both Medvedev and Tsitsipas have had career-best seasons in 2019. Medvedev reached his maiden Grand Slam final at the US Open (lost to Rafael Nadal) after winning his maiden Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati.
Tsitsipas upset two-time defending Australian Open champion Roger Federer in the fourth round en route to a maiden Slam semifinal (lost to Nadal).
Earlier in the season, following a run to the Dubai title clash (lost to Roger Federer), Tsitsipas made his debut in the top-10 of the ATP rankings. Medvedev followed suit with a third-round appearance in Wimbledon.
Post Wimbledon, Medvedev went on a tear, reaching title matches at 6 consecutive tournaments (Washington, Montreal, Cincinnati, US Open, St. Petersburg, and Shanghai), in the process becoming only the first active player after Roger Federer (17), Novak Djokovic (17), Rafael Nadal (9), and Andy Murray (7) to do so. Medvedev's 59 match wins and 9 finals lead the tour this season.
Tsitsipas, meanwhile, won his second and third career singles titles of the season in Marseille and Estoril respectively. He also beat 11-time champion Rafael Nadal in the Madrid semifinals (lost to Djokovic in the final) and produced one of the Grand Slam matches of the season at the French Open where he lost to Stanislas Wawrinka in a five-set fourth-round match.
The young Greek recorded his first win over a reigning world no. 1 when be beat Djokovic in the Shanghai quarterfinals.
In 5 career meetings between the two, Medvedev has emerged victorious on each occasion, including a Round of 16 clash in Monte Carlo and a semifinal in Shanghai.
#2 Rafael Nadal (x1) vs Alexander Zverev (x7)
Two-time finalist Rafael Nadal, who has qualified for the ATP Finals for 15 consecutive seasons, will be making just his ninth appearance at the season finale.
Blighted by injuries and fatigue at the fag end of the season, Nadal has struggled to be a regular fixture at the ATP Finals, which partly explains his rather pedestrian 16-13 win-loss record at the tournament.
8 of Nadal's 13 defeats at the ATP Finals have come in the group stage. In his 8 previous ATP Finals appearances, Nadal has lost his opening match on 3 occasions (2006, 2009, 2017), failing to qualify for the semifinals twice.
Defending champion Alexander Zverev went 1-2 in round-robin action in his debut appearance at the tournament in 2017, before becoming the first player in ATP Finals history to beat Federer and Djokovic in consecutive matches en route to landing his biggest career title in 2018.
Zverev will be looking to begin his title defense with a win, but to do so, he needs to find a way past Nadal, whom he has failed to beat in all of their five matches.