World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev has every reason to feel like the big man on campus this week at the Nitto ATP Finals following his unbeaten run to last year’s title at The O2, which brought to an end the tournament’s 12-year stay in London.
So expect the lanky Russian – who has been likened to an on-court octopus with arms and legs flailing far and wide as part of his imposing defense – to be high on confidence when he takes on Polish debutant Hubert Hurkacz in the Day 1 day session Sunday at the Pala Alpitour.
The venue and city may be different – Turin, Italy, which becomes the 15th host city of the season finale – but the fundamentals of the Russian’s prowess on indoor hard court remain the same. Last year Medvedev became the first player to beat the world’s Top 3-ranked players (Djokovic, Nadal, Thiem) en route to the title, which followed his run to the Rolex Paris Masters crown.
Medvedev, who was denied a successful title defense by Djokovic in last Sunday’s Bercy final, is looking to become the first back-to-back Nitto ATP Finals champion since the Serb won four straight between 2012-15.
This year’s US Open champion came into the final weeks of last season low on confidence but his victories in Paris and London rejuvenated him heading into 2021, a year in which he has made the World No. 2 spot his own.
“We had the pandemic when we didn’t play for a long time [in 2020 and] I had some problems with my body. So coming back was not easy, but these two tournaments last year brought back my confidence,” Medvedev said. “It was enough for all this year, knowing that I could beat the best players in the world.”
Hurkacz, who last week pushed Djokovic to a third-set tie-break in the semi-finals, may have learned something from the World No. 1’s winning tactics in the Paris final against the deep-court-returning Russian.
Throwing out his losing playbook from the US Open final, Djokovic attempted 39 serve/volley plays against Medvedev in the Rolex Paris Masters final in a tactical masterclass. He won 19 of 22 serve/volley points. (He served a fault on the other 17 would-be serve/volley attempts.)
Despite the data, Hurkacz tells ATPTour.com that he doesn’t think serve and volley is a panacea when trying to blunt Medvedev’s return game, but also doesn’t rule out coming in behind his thundering serve. “Daniil’s an amazing player who stands back on the return to take full cuts and he really places the ball in tricky spots. So sometimes maybe you can serve and volley, but as well he can navigate that ball and try to pass you up there off the first shot.”
The players’ two career ATP Head2Head meetings came this year and both have gone the distance. Hurkacz beat Medvedev in five sets in the Wimbledon fourth round before the Russian got his revenge in Toronto with a third-set tie-break victory.
In the evening match, Italian Matteo Berrettini will ride raucous support from passionate home fans into battle with 2018 finale champion Alexander Zverev, who in making his fifth consecutive appearance, has the most experience at the tournament of any player other than Novak Djokovic.
“I feel the pressure, but it’s a good pressure. It’s so nice to be here,” Berrettini said. “I know that the crowd is going to be on my side, and I really cannot wait to step on the court.”
Zverev leads their ATP Head2Head series 3-1, including their lone hard-court meeting (Shanghai 2019) and their lone 2021 meeting (in the three-set Madrid final). The German World No. 3 has enjoyed another strong season and brings an equal-tour-leading 55 match wins into the tournament.
“I have played good tennis this year,” said Zverev. “I’ve won five titles and I’m the only player who has won multiple [ATP] Masters [1000 titles] this year. It comes with good tennis, also, at the Olympics, I won a gold medal. I am looking forward to this tournament. I didn’t come here just as a participant, but I want to win matches and do well here.”
In 2021, the 24-year-old won the Tokyo Olympics gold medal (d. Khachanov), two ATP Masters 1000 titles at the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Berrettini) and Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati (d. Rublev), plus two ATP 500 crowns: the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco (d. Tsitsipas) and the Erste Bank Open in Vienna (d. Tiafoe).
“Matteo is a superstar here, everyone likes him,” Zverev said. “I look forward to the match, we are among the best players in the world so there are no easy matches. I definitely look forward to that match and the energy on Sunday.”
Matteo & Ajla in the house 🏠
— ATP Tour (@atptour) November 13, 2021
Mektic/Pavic Begin Quest For Perfect End To Season
Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic fittingly have the honour of kicking off the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals when they confront Kevin Krawietz and Horia Tecau in the first match of the tournament. They Croatians, who have already clinched year-end No. 1 after winning nine titles, are looking to round out their explosive first season together with their 10th title of the year. They lead Krawietz and Tecau 2-0 in meetings this year.
In the evening session, Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (24-11, 2 titles in 2021) will look to repeat their first-round win over Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek (20-11, 1 title) in Montreal during the summer.
Scrubbing up well 👌
The #NittoATPFinals doubles teams are READY.
Who will take the title in Turin? pic.twitter.com/ank5pDc4tL
— ATP Tour (@atptour) November 13, 2021
ORDER OF PLAY – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2021
CENTRE COURT start 11:30 am
 N. Mektic (CRO) / M. Pavic (CRO) vs  K. Krawietz (GER) / H. Tecau (ROU)
Not Before 2:00 pm
 D. Medvedev (RUS) vs  H. Hurkacz (POL)
Not Before 6:30 pm
 M. Granollers (ESP) / H. Zeballos (ARG) vs  I. Dodig (CRO) / F. Polasek (SVK)
Not Before 9:00 pm
 A. Zverev (GER) vs  M. Berrettini (ITA)