It seems like only yesterday the 2019 Rolex Shanghai Masters was getting underway and now – eight days later – this year’s tournament has been played and the champion – Daniil Medvedev – has been crowned.
If there’s one thing this year will be remembered for it’s that there was a changing of the guard in Shanghai. Since Nikolay Davydenko won the inaugural Rolex Shanghai Masters in 2009 only three players have succeeded to score the trophy during the past decade.
Novak Djokovic won the title four times and arrived here this year as the defending champion. Roger Federer was hoping to win a third Shanghai title, while Andy Murray, a three-time past champion, was just happy to be playing without pain following right hip resurfacing surgery last January.
The scenario in tennis has often been one where the question is whether experience will win out over youth. And for the most part, most especially at the Grand Slams, the best have dominated with Federer winning 20 titles, Nadal 19 and Djokovic 16.
But this year in Shanghai, it’s been really exciting because youth has prevailed over the veterans. On quarterfinal Friday, both Djokovic and Federer were ushered to the exit by sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and fifth seed Alexander Zverev, respectively.
When it all played out, the red-hot Medvedev, the third seed here, blasted his way to a 6-4, 6-1 victory over the fifth seed Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s 73-minute final. Zverev entered the final with a perfect 4-0 winning record against Medvedev, but all of those encounters took place before the Russian became a 2019 powerhouse.
“It’s something outrageous that I’ve done in the last few months,” Medvedev told the large stadium crowd after his win. “I wouldn’t have believed it.”
He won the tournament without dropping a set all week. To that distinction he’s willing to give himself the ultimate compliment.
“I can say that, well, here I looked invincible this week since I’m the winner,” Medvedev said.
For his part, Zverev acknowledged how dominating Medvedev’s been these past few months during the on-court award ceremony.
“As I said yesterday you’re probably the best player in the world right now and it’s unbelievable,” Zverev said to Medvedev. “All the best to you.”
Zverev also admitted that Medvedev has a huge advantage at the moment.
“Confidence was the biggest factor today,” Zverev said. “He’s way more confident that I am.
“To beat a player like him you have to have confidence and you have to be playing better for a longer period of time and not just for one week.”
Shanghai, as it turned out, would thrillingly have four semifinalists who were all aged 23-and-under: Medvedev is 23, Zverev is 22, Tsitsipas is 21, and 11th seed Matteo Berrettini is 23.
The championship match between Medvedev and Zverev marks the first time an ATP Masters 1000 tournament featured players under the age of 24 since a 22-year-old Novak Djokovic defeated 23-year-old Gael Monfils at the 2009 Paris event.
Medvedev certainly came into the tournament with a big edge. Ask anyone in the game and they were all too happy to tell you he’s been the man of the hour of late. By the time the tournament concluded the Russian was leading the tour in four categories: most matches won at 59, most hard court wins at 46, most ATP Masters 1000 wins at 22, and most finals played at nine.
“Something clicked in my game in USA,” Medvedev said. “I don’t know why. I think it’s just the hard work that I have been doing. But I started to understand even more about my game, even more I would say about my serve, about my volley, about everything, like kind of what do I have to do when?”
Playing in exclusive ATP Masters 1000 finals, Medvedev was 1-1 heading into the Shanghai championship match. Both of his previous appearances took place this summer with his losing to Rafael Nadal in Montreal, but defeating David Goffin for the Cincinnati title.
As or Zverev, his final record at ATP Masters is now 3-3. He captured the Master 1000 trophy at 2017 Rome beating Djokovic in the final, 2017 Montreal beating Federer in the final and 2018 Madrid beating Dominic Thiem in the final. He lost out for the win to John Isner in the 2018 Miami final, Nadal in the 2018 Rome final and here to Medvedev.
The two players exchanged early service breaks in the first set, but Zverev made two crucial mistakes in the 10th game – double-faulting twice from 30-30 to surrender the first set.
Zverev deflated after that first set as Medvedev raced to a 5-0 lead before the German won the one game he could in the second set. Medvedev closed out the match in fine fashion, serving it out at 40-15 with an ace.
Now that the 2019 champion has been decided it’s time to say good-bye to another fabulous year at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. But in 12 months time the tournament will be back again for eight days to show off the best tennis in the business.