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Ricky’s Tennis Preview and Pick for the Nitto ATP Finals Semifinal Between Medvedev and Ruud

Defending champion Daniil Medvedev meets Casper Ruud for a spot in the final. EPA-EFE/ALESSANDRO DI MARCO

By Ricky Dimon

Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev have seemingly been on an inevitable collision course for the Nitto ATP Finals championship match ever since the tournament started. Nothing has changed now that they are the top seeds out of their respective round-robin groups and therefore in opposite semifinals.

But there is still more work to be done before a Djokovic-Medvedev final showdown becomes reality, and for Medvedev it comes in the form of a semifinal matchup with Casper Ruud on Saturday afternoon.

The Russian leads the head-to-head series 2-0, having rolled through each of their two previous encounters. He prevailed 6-3, 7-6(6) at the 2020 ATP Cup and 7-5, 6-1 this summer on the grass courts of Mallorca.

With a 3-0 record so far in Turin, Medvedev is now on an eight-match winning streak at the year-end championship. The world No. 2 went undefeated en route to last season’s title–when the event was played in London for the last time. He booked his spot in the semis this time around with defeats of Hubert Hurkacz, Alexander Zverev, and Jannik Sinner–all in three sets. Medvedev had already clinched the Group B win even before facing Sinner on Thursday, but he still battled to a 6-0, 6-7(5), 7-6(8) victory.

“Mentally it was tough knowing the match was dead,” the 25-year-old commented. “But I did not want to lose my rhythm. I won the first set quite easily and I was like, let’s continue this way. The second set was about an hour or so and then it is the third set. But you’re not going to not play the third set because I like to win, I don’t like to lose. I am happy I won.”

Casper Ruud is the first Norwegian to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, Italy, 15 November 2021. EPA-EFE/Alessandro Di Marco

Ruud has been doing a whole lot of winning in 2021. The eighth-ranked Norwegian is 55-16 overall and 2-1 at the Nitto ATP Finals. Despite playing on a fast hard court when clay is his preferred surface, Ruud bounced back from an opening loss to Djokovic by beating both Cameron Norrie and Andrey Rublev in three sets.

“I am just enjoying the moment,” the 22-year-old assured. “I am looking forward to [Saturday] already. It is going to be another tough battle–different kind of player from [Rublev], but one of the best in the world. He has proven himself as one of the best over the past two or three years. I have played against him a couple of times and lost both, but I know a little bit about what I am going to face and it is going to be a fun challenge.”

It may be another fun experience for Ruud, but it’s unlikely to end well. Medvedev has a day off in addition to a massive surface advantage. Ruud will be making a quick turnaround on the heels of his 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) thriller against Rublev and his right arm appeared to be giving him some trouble late in that contest.

Anything other than a routine win for Medvedev would be a shocker.

Pick: Medvedev in 2

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.