The 24-year-old’s 6-3, 6-4 win put him joint top of the Tokyo Group alongside World No.1 Novak Djokovic, who put on a masterclass to trounce debutant Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-2.
Medvedev will face Djokovic on Wednesday and will take heart from the fact that the Serb also lost all three of his group matches on his debut in 2007 but returned a year later to clinch the title in Shanghai.
Djokovic has won four more titles since the event moved to London in 2009. And, judging by the way he clicked smoothly into gear on Monday, the 33-year-old will take some stopping as he bids to equal the six titles of Roger Federer. Medvedev will not be short of confidence though after a superb display against Zverev, who struggled to control his serves.
“I actually didn’t know that Djokovic was 0-3 in his first appearance,” Medvedev, who also beat Zverev to win this month’s Paris Masters, told reporters. “I also saw that he has won 12 consecutive opening group matches at the ATP Finals. Hopefully, I can do the same. I like to play against Novak and I am looking forward to it.”
The opening games against Zverev were curious. Medvedev gifted up his first service game with a double-fault. Zverev then served three double-faults in succession to hand the break back. Medvedev, initially struggling with his forehand, later survived a break point in the third game, winning a brutal rally.
Zverev worked overtime, trying to stay level at 2-3, only to throw away the game with consecutive double-faults. From then on, Medvedev was too solid, taking the first set with an ace and breaking in the seventh game of the second set as Zverev again wavered.
Medvedev threw in an underarm serve at 4-3, 30-30, but served out in more conventional fashion at 5-4 to seal the win.