Daniil Medvedev maintained his red-hot February form on Saturday to power to victory at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, where the third seed prevailed 6-4, 6-4 against Andy Murray to claim the title on tournament debut in Doha.
Medvedev made a fast start in both sets to complete his one-hour, 47-minute victory in a battle between two former World No. 1s, opening up a 4-1 lead in the first and a 3-1 lead in the second. Murray, who won all four of his previous matches in Doha this week in three sets, reclaimed a break in each set, but Medvedev denied another comeback for the 35-year-old to clinch his 17th tour-level title.
“[It was] a tough match,” said Medvedev after his win. “It was a little bit windy today, so both of us were struggling to find our rhythm… Today was a big fight for both of us. Sometimes we were playing bad, then suddenly both of us were playing amazing, and I’m happy to win.”
Having also triumphed in Rotterdam last week, Medvedev is the first player to clinch back-to-back singles titles in the 2023 ATP Tour season. On Monday, the 27-year-old will leapfrog Rafael Nadal to No. 7 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings as a result of his Doha title run.
“I managed to find momentum in Rotterdam,” said Medvedev, when asked about his recent form. “The first two matches I played there were tough. I didn’t feel good before that tournament, and then starting in the quarter-finals against Felix [Auger-Aliassime], I started to find my rhythm.
“I started to play really good. Serve better, move better. Today it was tough for Andy to put the balls through me many times, and now the question is [if it] can continue. I’m going to try as long as I can.”
Despite falling just short of winning his first ATP Tour title since 2019, Murray rose 18 spots to No. 52 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings thanks to his string of marathon wins in Doha. The Briton will look to build on his form next week, when he and Medvedev both join the field at the ATP 500 event in Dubai.
“It was an incredible week,” reflected Murray, who was playing in a record fifth final in Doha. “Obviously it didn’t finish how I wanted, but I had some amazing matches here, created some great memories. It was fantastic to be back in a final here again and against an incredible player today.
“Daniil is one of my favourite players to watch and one of the best players on the Tour. It’s great for me to get that opportunity to play against someone of his level in a final again. [There are] definitely some things to work on, but I’m proud of my week and the work that me and my team have put in to get me back to this stage.”
Medvedev entered Saturday’s final having not dropped a set against Murray in the pair’s two previous ATP Head2Head meetings. In Doha, he started confidently against the Briton once again, opening a double-break lead at 4-1 by staying solid while Murray struggled to find his best level.
However, as he had in each of his victories this week, the Briton demonstrated resilience when under pressure. Murray began to match Medvedev in the longer rallies, with the 46-time tour-level titlist striking his backhand particularly cleanly. He reclaimed one of the breaks and held another break point at 4-5, but Medvedev held firm to move ahead.
Back-to-back titles for @DaniilMedwed 👏🏆
Incredible performances over the last two weeks.
What do you think, is the former World number 1 and Grand Slam champion back to his best?#TennisInsights | @atptour | #QEMO2023 pic.twitter.com/F04mk4Sd6h
— Tennis Insights (@tennis_insights) February 25, 2023
The defining feature of Medvedev’s recent form has been his relentlessness from the baseline, and his retrieving abilities helped him break Murray’s serve again in the first game of the second set. Although Murray again rallied, levelling for 3-3 with some inspired defence on break point, another decisive break for Medvedev in the ninth game helped extend his winning streak to nine tour-level matches.
The windy conditions may have contributed to an uncharacteristic six double faults for Medvedev, but the third seed saved five of seven break points he faced to improve his season record to 14-2. Sixteen of his 17 tour-level titles have now come on hard courts.