Who is the most consistent player on the ATP Tour these days?
Your answer should be Daniil Medvedev because no one has put up his numbers. Not Novak Djokovic. Not Rafael Nadal. Not Roger Federer. The Russian leads the 2019 charts so far: most match wins 58, most hard court wins 44, most ATP Masters 1000 wins 21 and most finals nine. He has also had 43 straight set wins.
On Saturday, at the deluxe Masters 1000 tournament known world-wide as the Rolex Shanghai Masters, the third-seeded Russian stunningly reached his sixth consecutive final since the men’s tour returned to hard courts following Wimbledon.
The third-seeded Medvedev earned passage into the final with a 7-6 (5), 7-5 win over sixth seed Stefanos Tsitisipas of Greece. This was the fifth time the two have played and Medvedev continues to refuse to surrender a match.
“Of course, it means that I’m not a convenient opponent to him, which is a good thing,” said Medvedev said, of beating Tsitsipas every time they’ve played. “But I think the head-to-head doesn’t mean anything. It’s a new match, new situation.”
In order to take home a fourth winner’s trophy this year, Medvedev will have to get the better of fifth seed Alexander Zverev in the final. Zverev, who upset Roger Federer in the quarterfinals on Friday, ousted 11th seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy 6-3, 6-4 in the other semifinal.
Zverev ended Berrettini’s hopes of becoming the second Italian to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final – Fabio Fognini was the first when he won the Monte-Carlo title in last April.
Interestingly, the final presents with Zverev having the advantage over Medvedev in the past. In fact, Zverev has beaten Medvedev all four times they’ve played – none of the encounters took place this season – with the Russian only winning one of nine sets played.
“He’s different this year,” Zverev said of Medvedev. “He’s been playing some unbelievable tennis. The last few months he’s probably the best player in the world, winning a Masters (Cincinnati), reaching six finals in a row, reaching the U.S. Open final.
”He’s definitely playing the best tennis of his life.”
Medvedev does have something in common with those three players ranked ahead of him. All four of the top four-ranked players have had career stretches of reaching at least six finals in a row. Djokovic and Federer have actually both reached 17 consecutive finals and Nadal has played in nine successive finals.
“For myself, making six (finals) in a row…is something I could never dream of, to be honest,” Medvedev said. “I want to keep the momentum going and hope I can make it to seven or eight. Let’s see about 17 later.”
Tsitsipas understands that one reason he’s not made headway against Medvedev is that his approach to playing him is problematic.
“I hate myself, first of all, for putting myself into that kind of situation where I have to play in his own terms and not in my terms,” Tsitsipas said. “So, he has a huge serve, and if you manage to get it back, it’s just countless balls inside the court. The only way you can do is hit as hard as you can, side-to-side, be accurate, and make him move.”
This year’s Rolex Shanghai Masters is the perfect look at the future of men’s tennis as all four semifinalists are aged 23-and-under: Medvedev and Berrettini are 23, Tsitsipas is 21, and Zverev is 22. That has not occurred since 1999 at a Masters 1000 tournament.
Since July, Medvedev is 28-3 in matches played with two titles already earned at Cincinnati and St. Petersburg. There also was that stunning run to his first major final at the U.S. Open where he pushed Rafael Nadal to five sets before allowing the Spanish superstar to earn a 19th career Grand Slam title.
For only the third time in the tournament’s history and the first since its second year in 2010, both finalists are first timers.