A year ago, Daniil Medvedev was losing practice sets 6-0, had zero ATP Masters 1000 titles and had never beaten Alexander Zverev, who had three of those titles and four victories over the Russian.
A year ago, Medvedev would never have imagined the "outrageous" accolades he has racked up in the last 11 weeks: Reaching six consecutive finals (including a maiden Grand Slam final), winning two straight ATP Masters 1000 tournaments and attaining a career-high ranking of world No. 4.
The 23-year-old yesterday beat Zverev 6-4, 6-1 in 1hr 13min in the Rolex Shanghai Masters final for his fourth title of the year. His other three were the Cincinnati Masters in August, the Sofia Open in Bulgaria in February and the St Petersburg Open in Russia last month.
While his accomplishments this year may have once seemed far-fetched to him, they probably come as no surprise to his wife Daria, who Medvedev said believes in him more than he does himself.
She had always told him, even when he was ranked in the 60s, that he would be in the top 10 soon and Medvedev, referring to the practice set he lost in Washington this time last year, said yesterday: "During the practice I was looking at her and saying, 'Good top-10 player here, losing 6-0 in practice'.
"And now it's her turn - she always reminds me of this."
Under a closed roof at the Qi Zhong Stadium yesterday, Medvedev broke early for a 3-0 lead but world No. 6 Zverev won the next three games. Medvedev won the set through two consecutive double faults by the German.
Medvedev saved a break point in the first game of the second set, and won the match with an ace. He has now won 29 of his last 32 matches and did not drop a set in Shanghai.
"I think I just became a better player than I was when I played him four times before," he said.
Many people are talking about Grand Slams (where) we need to do better - well, I tried to do it at the US Open. Hopefully we can continue this way throughout all the tournaments that we have coming.
DANIIL MEDVEDEV, Russian tennis star who is on a roll and clearly has higher aspirations.
ying in his first ATP Masters 1000 final this year, said confidence was a "big factor" yesterday.
The 22-year-old added: "He's way more confident than I am in big moments in finals right now."
Referring to how his opponent served his way out of trouble during tight moments in the first set, Zverev said: "To beat someone like him... you have to be playing good for a longer period of time and not just for one week.
"I feel like I'm on a very good path again but obviously I have to be on this path for a longer period of time."
The Shanghai final was the first time since 2009 that both players in an ATP Masters 1000 final were aged below 24, which Medvedev hailed as an "amazing achievement".
The US Open finalist said: "Many people are talking about Grand Slams (where) we need to do better - well, I tried to do it at the US Open. Hopefully we can continue this way throughout all the tournaments that we have coming.
"Hopefully, we can only be better."
Zverev, who beat world No. 3 and 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the quarter-finals here, agreed.
"Now I see the other young guys, I see maybe still (a) difference in how we act on court compared to the older guys," he added.
"When Roger retires, when Novak (Djokovic) retires, when (Rafael Nadal) retires, I want them to know that tennis is in good hands.
"If we learn the good things (from) those guys, I think the sport of tennis will be in very good hands."