The ATP Finals’ last hurrah in London brought Daniil Medvedev the biggest title of his career and what he hopes will be a glimpse of things to come in men’s tennis.
The 23-year-old Russian, who did not win a match on his debut last year, went into the final against Dominic Thiem having not lost a match all week and he fought back from a set down to win 4-6 7-6 (2) 6-4.
In doing so, Medvedev became the first player in the 50-year history of the tournament to beat the world’s three leading players at the same event.
Medvedev, who defeated Novak Djokovic in the group stages and Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals, completed a hat-trick of London titles for the new generation as he followed in the footsteps of Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Neither the German nor the Greek has so far managed to turn his breakthrough into success on the grand slam stage, with Djokovic and Nadal continuing to dominate the majors, but change will have to come eventually.
Medvedev, who pushed Nadal to five sets in his first slam final in New York last year, said: “Hopefully all of us young guys will continue pushing, will have some great rivalries.
“Hopefully we can be there for a long time, maybe pushing the other generations back, because that’s how we can be close to the top three. They probably went through two, three generations without dropping their level, which is not easy.
“But what is definitely good from us, from Dominic, from me, we managed both to beat Rafa and Novak, which is an amazing accomplishment.”
Thiem became the first new slam champion since 2014 when he lifted the US Open title in September, albeit without having to beat Djokovic, Nadal or Roger Federer.
He said: “I think it’s super important for the sport because Roger, Rafa, Nole (Djokovic) and also Andy (Murray), they did so much for the sport. I think they brought so many people to tennis.
“There is going to be a time when they are not around anymore, and then it’s going to be so important to keep all the tennis fans.
“I think that’s our challenge, that we perform well, that we play great in big tournaments, that we become huge stars ourselves. That’s our challenge, to keep all those people with tennis and to maybe continue their story.”
It was a fitting match to conclude what has been an excellent tournament but sadness remains, of course, that it was played out in front of an empty stadium.
Thiem won the big moments in the first set and had the edge for much of the second set but was unable to claim a break and Medvedev gradually turned the match in his favour.
The Russian won seven straight points to claim the second-set tie-break and deserved his break in the fifth game of the deciding set as he profited from a willingness to attack the net.
He greeted his victory with barely a flicker of emotion, explaining afterwards: “I decided during the US Open last year when I had a tough time with the crowd that, hopefully I’m going to win a lot of big titles during my career and that’s going to be my thing. I don’t celebrate my victories. I like it.”
Medvedev extended his winning run to 10 straight matches after also triumphing at the Paris Masters earlier this month, and he said: “My level of game here and especially the last two matches I won are just unbelievable.
“I think it can give me a lot for my future career. To beat Dominic today is probably my best victory of my life. It’s a great boost of confidence for all the slams coming up.”
Thiem had hoped to cap what was a brilliant season with another big trophy but had to settle for the runners-up spot for the second-straight year after losing to Tsitsipas 12 months ago.
The Austrian said: “I have not so much to regret. Two guys faced off against each other today in great form. It was a great level all three sets long.
“This tournament is so tough to win or to play well. Every match is on the edge. I can only say well done to him.
“If I speak about the tennis, it has been an outstanding year. I have reached one of my big lifetime goals with winning that grand slam. So, even though it’s a tough year, it will always have a special place in my heart.”