Nitto ATP Finals: Rafael Nadal saves a match point, stages memorable comeback to stun Daniil Medvedev
Nadal exults as he celebrates his epic comeback against Medvedev/Photo: Reuters

some World number one Rafael Nadal has produced the comeback of his career at the Nitto ATP Finals, shocking world number four Daniil Medvedev 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (4) at the O2 Arena in London. In a replay of the U.S. Open, won by Nadal in five sets, the two players split sets before the dramatics of the third set.

The Spaniard fell behind by a double break at 5-1 in the deciding set, saving a match point in the seventh game before claiming six of the final seven games to remain perfect against Medvedev. Nadal will face Stefanos Tsitsipas in his final round robin match while the Russian will square off with Alexander Zverev.

"This match is one of those that one [time] out of 1,000 you win", the Spaniard said following his remarkable win. "In that moment [facing match point], what you think is probably in five minutes you are in the locker room, because that's the more normal thing. In that moment, you play with not much pressure because you are almost lost.

"I have been playing a better level of tennis than the first day in general terms. Then to win this match is a combination of a lot of things: luck, som mistakes of Daniil, some good moments by myself at the end."

Medvedev outplays Nadal to take first set

Nadal came out much better than he did in his opening match against Zverev, rattling off a quick hold. He was made to work for his next hold in the third game, incorporating slice backhands to break down the Medvedev defenses. The Russian used his fiercesome groundstrokes to dig out of 15-30 to keep pace.

Medvedev took a deserved lead in the crucial round robin match/Photo: Toby Melville
Medvedev took a deserved lead in the crucial round robin match/Photo: Toby Melville

The slice was critical in saving break point in the seventh game, a 35-shot rally ending when the Spaniard enticed Medvedev into a sloppy forehand and eventually converting the easy pass. He continued to come forward, combining it with bruising forehands to stand within a game of the set at 5-4.

Medvedev continued to answer every Nadal challenge, posting a third straight love hold to force a tiebreaker. Honors were even through the first six points, minibreaks exchanged before the world number four screamed a forehand down the line on the dead run to regain his advantage and he fired off a big serve to close out the set.

Nadal recovers to claim second set, force decider

After Medvedev held with ease to close out the first set, he faced triple break point immediately in the second set after a crushing backhand by Nadal. A forehand long by the Russian gave the world number one the early lead. The edge was consolidated, but not without needing to dig out of 0-30.

The 19-time major champion was moving the ball around, putting Medvedev in uncomfortable positions. The world number four found his serve again after that stumble in the opening game, ripping off a pair of aces to keep in touch at 3-2. He had a half-chance in the next game at 30-30, but Nadal called on yet another big serve to hold.

Nadal started and finished the second set with breaks of serve to force a third set/Photo: Tony O'Brien
Nadal started and finished the second set with breaks of serve to force a third set/Photo: Tony O'Brien

Medvedev's serve, so strong throughout most of the match, abandoned him as he served to stay in the set at 5-3. Trailing 15-40, he rallied to bring up game point, but sprayed a backhand wide, double-faulted to give Nadal set point and missed on a forehand to hand the Spaniard the set and level the match at one set all.

World number one pulls off sensational comeback to stay alive in London

Nadal was perfect at net as the third set got underway, but at 30-30 he missed after a brilliant dipping pass by Medvedev brought up break point and a wayward backhand slice gave the Russian the early lead. He came through a stiff test, saving a break point after two errors by the Spaniard and sealed the hold with his 14th ace of the contest.

Medvedev achieved a double break with some terrific defense. At 15-15, he angled off a volley and at 30-30 he feathered a drop shot over to create a break point chance, taken with a drop volley-backhand combination to go ahead 3-0. An emphatic hold brought the Russian to 4-0 and two games later, he had a chance to wrap up the victory.

Trailing 5-1, Nadal faced match point at 30-40, but used a backhand return and good close with a drop shot that wrong-footed Medvedev and he squeezed out a hold. Serving for the match, the world number four was undone by some precise groundstrokes from the Spaniard and a miscued volley to make the scoreline 5-3.

The Russian was coming undone, loose errors flying off of his racket, Nadal sweeping through a quick hold to trim the deficit to 5-4. Medvedev continued to come unglued, helpless by the world number one's battering groundstrokes, a massive inside-out forehand bringing up triple break point.

After squandering the first two chances, Nadal took the third, picking Medvedev off at the net to amazingly level the final set at 5-5. A routine service game, capped by a wicked backhand slice, gave the world number one five straight games to heap the pressure back on Medvedev at 6-5.

Nadal celebrates a remarkable comeback in London/Photo: Will Oliver
Nadal celebrates a remarkable comeback in London/Photo: Will Oliver

It looked to be over for the world number four at 0-30 down, but to his credit he slammed down four straight unreturned serves to force a tiebreaker. Ahead 2-1 in the breaker, he could only watch as Nadal battered consecutive forehands to move in front. Medvedev pinged back in front with more fine serving.

The turning point came at 5-4 when the Russian missed a routine forehand just wide to bring up two match points, taken at the first time of asking when Medvedev just flashed a backhand wide, a challenge confirming the call and sealing a miraculous victory for Nadal after two hours, 46 minutes of extraordinary play.

Following the match, Medvedev admitted he may have underestimated the world number one: "to be honest with you, completely I felt it after the match point when the match was over, because I still tried to win it, even letting it go from 5-1. So after the match point, I was like, OK, that's when I actually lost the match and I cannot go back.

"So I say, hopefully i'm not going to have moments like this, but that's tennis. Rafa fighted his best, because he could just say "okay, it's over at 5-1' and just give me the point. But we all know Rafa is not about this. \I just need to close out such matches."