Reigning champion Daniil Medvedev moved to the brink of the last four at the ATP Finals on Tuesday by edging out Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (8-6) in a dramatic match in Turin.
Russian second seed Medvedev missed two match points in a gripping deciding-set tie-break before getting over the line at the third time of asking.
“Definitely one of the matches to remember,” said the US Open winner, who beat Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz in his opening group encounter.
Medvedev now leads Zverev 6-5 in their head-to-head, having also beaten him in the round-robin stage last year.
“Sometimes that’s how tennis is,” he added. “You just try to do your best. Sometimes luck is on your side, sometimes not.”
Medvedev is not guaranteed a semi-final place yet, though, as defeat by alternate Jannik Sinner in his final group match would leave him level with the young Italian and Zverev, should the German see off Hurkacz.
Sinner replaced fellow home hope Matteo Berrettini in the draw and made an immediate impact by thrashing Hurkacz 6-2, 6-2. Wimbledon runner-up Berrettini withdrew due to the abdominal injury which forced him to retire from his first match against Zverev early in the second set.
In front of a large crowd at the Pala Alpitour arena on Tuesday, Medvedev edged the first set thanks to a break in Zverev’s opening service game and also saved three break points himself. World No 3 Zverev appeared angered by a line call late in that set, before channelling his energy to take the second in a tie-break and level the match.
Medvedev saved a break point in the 11th game of the deciding set to help force another breaker, in which he battled back from 4-2 down to lead 6-4.
He saw two match points come and go but finally clinched a vital win after more than two-and-a-half hours on court.
“That was a match to remember, just amazing,” conceded Zverev.
‘Devastated’ Berrettini pulls out
The 20-year-old Sinner made his ATP Finals debut against Hurkacz after Berrettini pulled out of the season-ending event, being staged in Italy for the first time after moving from London.
“I thought, cried, and finally decided,” Berrettini said in a post on social media. “My Finals end here. I am devastated. I never thought I would have to give up the most important tennis event ever held in Italy in this way.”
Sinner made the most of his opportunity with a brilliant display against Hurkacz.
The world number 11 broke his opponent twice in the opening five games of the match and never looked back, smashing five aces and 17 winners to wrap up victory in under an hour-and-a-half.
“I knew around 5:00 pm local time (1600 GMT) that I would play,” Sinner said. “I was ready to go on court.
“It is an incredible feeling playing here in Italy with thousands of people cheering for you and I am trying my best. I will enjoy the moment.”
Novak Djokovic leads the Green Group after beginning his attempt to equal Roger Federer’s record number of ATP Finals triumphs with a straight-sets win over Casper Ruud on Monday.
Russian Andrey Rublev also impressed with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over 2019 champion Stefanos Tsitsipas and sits behind Djokovic in the standings by virtue of winning one game fewer than the 20-time Grand Slam champion.