Daniil Medvedev walked out with a swagger in Turin with the lyrics “It’s like a force of nature, no stopping now” ringing around on repeat, here as the defending champion up against the new boy at the ATP Finals, Hubert Hurkacz.
Hubi stood on the court waiting for Daniil before the coin toss, taking in the moment, his debut at the ATP Finals. As opening games go it was a smooth start for Hubi who held and served strongly, up 40-0 in the second game he had a slight wobble but after 15 minutes the Pole led 3-2.
Tactically the first set was being played well by both, we didn’t see either play make a break or a risk but the way in particular Hurkacz had settled into his debut was impressive and leading 5-4 put the pressure on Medvedev to serve to stay in the first set, would Hubi go big in this game? Why not?
A big backhand drilled down the line forced the opening error of the game for Medvedev, the backhand once again set up the Pole to come in and take control culminating in a beautiful forehand winner and up 15-30 but once again no break points were on show.
We started to see more of the net play from Hurkacz and then Medvedev began to dig in during rallies, you could hear a pin drop as the Russian won a gruelling 28 shot rally to level the seventh game at 30-30. Big serving served Hubi well to keep himself ahead in the opening set.
There continued to be nothing to separate these two, the closest we got to a break point in the opening 12 games was three games going to 30-30 with both using they serve to get out of trouble. Daniil with 81% won behind his first serve and Hubi winning 88% before his serve.
A tie-break followed, coming in Hurkacz has won 18 of his 31 this year, where as Daniil had a record of won 8 and lost 8 but it felt ‘must win’ for Hurkacz…
At the first change of ends it was the debutant on top leading 4-2 but with Daniil coming up to serve, down 3-6 the Russian had two serve to try and put pressure on Hurkacz which he did and at 6-5 he would serve for the set. Hubi challenged his serve missing the target by a millimetre before forcing the forehand pass from Medvedev wide and sealing an impressive opening set 7-6 (7-5).
A shift in momentum and a shift in game style from Medvedev approaching the net a bit more and getting that first break of serve in the match to lead 3-0 in the second set.
The second set continued in this fashion with Medvedev in control, the atmosphere in the crowd dipped slightly as did the Russian’s momentum just for a moment double faulting on set point but went onto claim it 6-3.
Daniil went onto continue to dominate the Pole breaking once again at the beginning of the third set, the Russian found his depth hitting about 12% more into the back of the court but not shifting his position. There was never a panic from Daniil just a knowledge of his task up a break at 2-1.
Credit to Hurkacz he kept close to the Russian but upsetting the rhythm of the man who hadn’t faced a break point in the 104 minutes of the match was the challenge facing the seventh seed.
At 3-5 it was over to Hurkacz to serve to stay in the match, 0-30 surfaced but a quick rescue from the Pole put the question over to the man who hadn’t faced a break point, Daniil Medvedev.