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story.lead_photo.caption Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts during the semifinal match against Daniil Medvedev of Russia at the ATP World Finals tennis tournament at the O2 arena in London, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON -- Instead of No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 2 Rafael Nadal for the ATP Finals trophy, it'll be No. 3 Dominic Thiem against No. 4 Daniil Medvedev.

Nadal had won 71 matches in a row when grabbing the opening set, and he served for the victory in Saturday's semifinals when leading 5-4 in the second set. But Medvedev broke at love there and came all the way back to win 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3.

That came after Thiem frittered away four match points in his semifinal against Djokovic because he was "tight and nervous" during a second-set tiebreaker. Thiem gathered himself and eventually reeled off seven of the match's last eight points after trailing 4-0 in the last tiebreaker, winning 7-5, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (5).

"What he did from 0-4 in the third-set tiebreaker was just unreal," said Djokovic, a 17-time Grand Slam champion. "I don't think I played bad. He just crushed the ball and everything went in."

Thiem ended Djokovic's bid for a record-tying sixth ATP Finals trophy, while Medvedev prevented Nadal from continuing to pursue the most significant title the 20-time major champ hasn't won.

Nadal seemed on his way to the final when he reeled off four consecutive games in the second set to give himself the chance to serve for the match. He surprisingly stumbled there.

Once he was back in the match, Medvedev took advantage, dominating the ensuing tiebreaker with the help of a shanked lob winner, a forehand winner that claimed a 26-stroke exchange and a leaping backhand that drew a netted forehand.

Nadal couldn't shake that off, dropping the match's last three games as he serve-and-volleyed more than usual, sliced his backhand more than usual and made forehand errors more than usual.

Medvedev had been 0-3 against Nadal, including a five-set loss in the 2019 U.S. Open final, and the lanky 24-year-old Russian's top-notch serve, capable backhand and willingness to hang in long baseline rallies provided Saturday's breakthrough.

A year ago, Medvedev went 0-3 in round-robin play at the ATP Finals, while Thiem was the runner-up to Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Whoever wins today on the indoor hard court -- where things will be quiet because spectators are banned due to the coronavirus pandemic -- will be the tournament's sixth different champion over the past six years, the longest such stretch since 1974-79.

It was the first time since 2004 that the top four players in the rankings filled the four semifinal slots for the ATP Finals. Djokovic, already assured of finishing the year ranked No. 1 for a record-tying sixth time, was trying to match Roger Federer's mark of six ATP Finals trophies.

In the second set against Djokovic, Thiem's ace put him ahead 6-5 in the tiebreaker, one point from victory.

But Djokovic saved that initial chance with a 127 mph service winner. Thiem's next opportunity to win came at 7-6, but he double-faulted.

"I was, like, so tight in my whole body," Thiem said.

The third was at 9-8, when he pushed a down-the-line forehand wide. At 10-9, Djokovic erased No. 4 with a forehand that landed right on a line.

That began a three-point run by Djokovic to steal the set.

But Thiem regrouped and his 300th career tour-level victory made him only the second man with at least five wins each against the Big Three of Djokovic (5-7 career mark), Federer (5-2) and Nadal (6-9). Andy Murray is the other.

"If you beat these guys," Thiem said, "it gives you a huge boost of confidence."

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Novak Djokovic of Serbia, left, shakes hands with Dominic Thiem of Austria at the of their semifinal match ATP World Finals tennis tournament at the O2 arena in London, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Thiem beat the top-ranked Djokovic 7-5, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (5). (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Daniil Medvedev of Russia smiles after winning against Rafael Nadal of Spain in their semifinal match at the ATP World Finals tennis tournament at the O2 arena in London, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Dominic Thiem of Austria celebrates after winning his semifinal match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia at the ATP World Finals tennis tournament at the O2 arena in London, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Daniil Medvedev of Russia serves the ball to Rafael Nadal of Spain during their semifinal match at the ATP World Finals tennis tournament at the O2 arena in London, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Novak Djokovic of Serbia leaves after losing his semifinal match against Dominic Thiem of Austria at the ATP World Finals tennis tournament at the O2 arena in London, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Dominic Thiem of Austria returns the ball to Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their semifinal match at the ATP World Finals tennis tournament at the O2 arena in London, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns the ball to Dominic Thiem of Austria during their semifinal match at the ATP World Finals tennis tournament at the O2 arena in London, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Dominic Thiem of Austria returns the ball to Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their semifinal match at the ATP World Finals tennis tournament at the O2 arena in London, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Rafael Nadal of Spain serves the ball to Daniil Medvedev of Russia during their semifinal match at the ATP World Finals tennis tournament at the O2 arena in London, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

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