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Ricky’s Preview and Picks for Day 6 of the Nitto ATP Finals: Djokovic vs. Zverev, Medvedev vs. Schwartzman

Win and you’re in: 2018 champion Alexander Zverev faces world No. 1 Novak Djokovic with a semifinal spot at ATP Finals in London on the line.

By Ricky Dimon

The last spot in the semis of the Nitto ATP Finals will come down to Novak Djokovic vs. Alexander Zverev on Friday night. That means the afternoon contest between Daniil Medvedev and Diego Schwartzman is a virtual dead rubber. Medvedev is already in, while Schwartzman is out.

Ricky previews the action and makes his predictions.

(1) Novak Djokovic vs. (6) Alexander Zverev

Both men are 1-1 through two matches in London. Djokovic opened with a 6-3, 6-2 rout of Schwartzman but then got crushed by Medvedev 6-3, 6-3. Zverev bounced back from a 6-3, 6-4 loss to the Russian by beating the Argentine 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

The German has been literally unbeatable for anyone except Medvedev during this indoor hard-court swing. He is 0-2 against Medvedev since the French Open and 13-0 against everyone else. This stretch includes back-to-back titles in Cologne and a runner-up performance at the Paris Masters.

Djokovic’s performance against Medvedev continued a worrisome trend, although by his own admission he probably isn’t too concerned about it. With the year-end No. 1 ranking already locked up, the 33-year-old simply went through the motions in Vienna and got blown out by Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 6-1–admitting afterwards that his motivation level was far less than 100 percent. Djokovic also skipped the Paris Masters.

Zverev should take additional confidence from his history in this head-to-head series. It stands at a competitive 3-2 in Djokovic’s favor, including 1-1 inside the O2 Arena. Both of those showdowns came in 2018, when the Serb prevailed 6-4, 6-1 in round-robin competition only to see Zverev respond with a 6-4, 6-3 triumph in the final.

This should be another great opportunity for the in-form 23-year-old. If he serves well, Zverev will have every chance to upset an opponent who appears to be ready for the offseason. Granted that’s a big “if” given Zverev’s occasional service woes, but the fact that he double-faulted just three times in three sets against Schwartzman is encouraging.

Pick: Zverev in 3

Daniil Medvedev is 2-0 in round-robin play at the ATP Finals.

(4) Daniil Medvedev vs. (8) Diego Schwartzman

Medvedev is a completely different London participant from the one that was on display that fall. Twelve months ago he was running on fumes at the end of a long and incredibly successful season; this time around he is well-rested due to both less winning and more time off because of the coronavirus pandemic. Armed with a full tank of energy, Medvedev captured the Paris Masters title two weeks ago and so far inside the O2 Arena has erased Zverev and Djokovic.

Schwartzman is making his year-end championship debut, and it won’t last long. The world No. 9 lost to Djokovic in straights and then saw his semifinal hopes end with a three-set loss to Zverev.

In the Group B dead rubber on Thursday, Dominic Thiem had already qualified and he went down in easy straight sets to Andrey Rublev. But there was little doubt that would happen, as the Austrian did the exact same thing last year against Matteo Berrettini and conserved energy to eventually come within two points of winning the tournament.

Medvedev will probably be more inspired to go undefeated. Plus he and Schwartzman do not like each one bit, so this should have a much different feel than Thiem vs. Rublev. If the Russian gives anything close to his best on an indoor hard court, this should not be competitive. After all, Medvedev just destroyed the Argentine 6-3, 6-1 at the Paris Masters to improve to 5-0 lifetime in the head-to-head series.

Pick: Medvedev in 2

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.