Russia’s Daniil Medvedev returns the ball to Italy’s Jannik Sinner during their ATP World Tour Finals singles tennis match, at the Pala Alpitour in Turin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Daniil Medvedev was expected to be in the ATP Finals semis; Casper Ruud is an upset upstart
Defending champion Medvedev brings a 2-0 head-to-head into the match (8:00 am ET)
Read on as we break down the matchup and look at the best odds and props
It doesn’t feel like it, with a full-form, four-time ATP Finals champion Novak Djokovic in the house.
But Daniil Medvedev is the defending champion.
And his effortful but undefeated run through the round-robin stages was a statement.
On Saturday he’ll face Finals rookie and “last” seed, No. 8 Casper Ruud.
Going into the week, the Russian would have taken that in a heartbeat.
The winner will face the winner of Djokovic vs. Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s final.
Daniil Medvedev vs Casper Ruud Odds
 Daniil Medvedev (RUS)
O 21.5 (-110)
 Casper Ruud (NOR)
U 21.5 (-125)
Odds as of Nov. 19 at Bet365
Clay “Specialist” Ruud Showing his Hard-Court Chops
At 22, the Norwegian Ruud has come on like gangbusters after starting the 2021 season ranked No. 27.
In large part, he did that on the red clay.
Ruud went from No. 26 as the spring season began to No. 14 after the French Open. And he went from No. 16 to No. 12 during a post-Wimbledon stretch of lower-tier events that were bereft of top players.
It gave him confidence and momentum (and took off a fair bit of pressure) as he headed to North America and the balance of the season on hard courts.
And on that surface, Ruud has proven a revelation. For the most part, he has lost only to the very best players.
The 22-year-old’s upset win – in a third-set tiebreak – over No. 5 Andrey Rublev Friday in the final round-robin match that earned him the spot in the semis only underscored that evolution.
Rublev had his way with Ruud in the first set. And he was up a break early in the second set.
But Ruud stayed the course and came out on top.
Daniil Medvedev vs Casper Ruud Head-to-Head
25 (Feb. 11, 1996)
22 (Dec. 22, 1998)
Career ATP Singles Titles
Career Grand Slam Singles Titles
No. 2 (March 5, 2021)
Career High Ranking
No. 8 (Oct. 25, 2021)
Career Prize Money
2021 Won/Loss record
Career Head to Head
Three Three-Setters for Medvedev
Meanwhile, the defending champion has hardly had it his own way during the group stages. He ended it 3-0. But each match was a nail-biter.
First, he had to come back from a set down to beat Finals rookie Hubert Hurkacz. Then he had to toil for two hours, 36 minutes on Tuesday to edge out Alexander Zverev in a third-set tiebreak.
Your 2021 #NittoATPFinals semi-finals:
🇷🇸 @DjokerNole v. @AlexZverev 🇩🇪
🇷🇺 @DaniilMedwed v. @CasperRuud98 🇳🇴 pic.twitter.com/ec9siLjFk2
— ATP Tour (@atptour) November 19, 2021
Energy-Sapping Win Over Sinner
On Thursday, Medvedev took on young Italian Jannik Sinner before a full house on hand to cheer his opponent.
Sinner had come in as an alternate and won his first match. He couldn’t advance to the semis. But there were 200 ranking points, $174,000 US and the pride of playing before his paisáns at stake.
After Medvedev won the first 6-0, it looked as though he wouldn’t have to expend unnecessary energy.
That turned out not to be the case.
SInner fought back to win the second-set tiebreak. And then he took the third set to a tiebreak as well.
It took 2 1/2 hours of high drama for Medvedev to finally send Sinner home – more mental and physical energy to expend on something that meant nothing in the big picture than he would have preferred.
Daniil Medvedev vs Casper Ruud Match History
ATP Cup (RR)
6-3, 7-6 (6)
Medvedev the Big Favorite
With the extra day’s rest for Medvedev, the fitness issue is more or less neutral.
A bigger problem for Ruud is that he hasn’t taken a set from the Russian in two previous efforts.
Medvedev has shown in his three group-stage matches that he likely has enough energy in reserve to see the season through to the limit – if he needs it.
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You know he wants a showdown against the No. 1 to cap an incredibly successful season that included his first major title. And to beat him again to set an early tone for 2022.
But first, he has to get to that final.
It would be a major shocker if Ruud were able to spoil that party.
Best Bets: Medvedev in Two Sets (-188); -4.5 games (+120)