Medvedev vs Nadal
Credits: Instagram @tennistv

The last of the two semi-final clash between Daniil Medvedev and Rafael Nadal is the one to look out for. They were born 10 years apart, one in Mallorca, the other in Moscow. The Mallorcan is gunning for the one big title that’s eluded him. The insurgent Muscovite is looking to win what would be his biggest prize yet. The younger man is a hunter seeking redemption and to prove himself, while the veteran is the hunted, a man with nothing to prove except perhaps to remind us that his generation isn’t ready for the sport’s changing of the guard quite yet.

Daniil Medvedev hasn’t beaten his ATP Finals semi-final opponent, Rafael Nadal, in three ATP Head2Head clashes. But don’t let that goose egg fool you — Medvedev took the Spaniard to the brink in last year’s US Open Final and, in their most recent duel, he led 5/1 in a deciding set tie-break last year at this very tournament.

Medvedev clinched his group with straight-sets wins over Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic, while Nadal lost a pair of riveting tie-breaks to Dominic Thiem, but rebounded strongly against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“I don’t think nobody is completely different player, no?” said Nadal, 34, who is No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. “I think he’s playing great, but we can’t forget that last year he played amazing too. He played the final in Washington, final in Montreal, winning Cincinnati, final US Open. Then he won in Shanghai and I think a couple more tournaments. So better than this is very difficult, no? He has plenty of confidence and [he is] playing [at a] very, very high level. But we are in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals so we can’t expect another story, no?”

After two narrow losses to Nadal, will Medvedev get his story straight on the fourth try? The defeats could give him confidence, since he got so close to the prize, or they could haunt him because he failed to close the sale. If his social media posts are any barometer, bet on the former. Last week, when Tennis TV tweeted out a brilliant passing shot Medvedev hit in his ATP Finals loss last year to Nadal, the Russian retweeted the video with the comment, “Oh you mean the match I choked?” with a host of emojis.

“Of course [I’m] really happy, because after last year, [I finished] 0-3, the [loss] against Rafa, so you always have doubts in your head like maybe next year is going to be [the] last year in London, I’m going to go out there and be tight, again, I’m not going to show anything in the ATP Finals,” said Medvedev, 24, who is ranked No. 4 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. “Well, [this hasn’t been] the case. [I] finished number one in the group already, which is great.”

The Russian enters the semi-finals as the only undefeated player left in the draw. In fact, the Russian did not drop a set in his Group Tokyo 1970 wins against Zverev, Djokovic and Diego Schwartzman. The match is a toss-up. The hunted has the experience, gravitas, and motivation to capture the one big trophy that’s eluded him. The hunter, 26-10 on the year, is on a surface he prefers and is riding an eight-match win streak going into his match with the Spaniard. The winner will be the man who can win the thigh-busting, track-meet rallies and then quickly collect themselves for the next point.

“It’s true I never won [this tournament], but sometimes you play well and you don’t win, no?” said Nadal, who married his longtime girlfriend Maria Francisca Perello a year ago at a seaside fortress in Mallorca. “I am looking forward to playing against probably the player who is playing better the past couple of weeks, and I’m excited about that. Let’s see. [It’s] going to be [an] amazing challenge and I hope to be ready for it.”