Nadal’s ATP pull­out leaves Fed­erer as last man stand­ing

Spa­niard’s per­sis­tent knee in­jury prompts an­other pre­ma­ture sea­son end

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - SPORTS -

LONDON: Rafael Nadal’s dra­matic with­drawal from the ATP Fi­nals in London leaves Roger Fed­erer as the only megas­tar stand­ing at a tour­na­ment now look­ing se­ri­ously short of star power.

The Span­ish world num­ber one pro­duced an as­ton­ish­ing never-say­die per­for­mance in his open­ing round-robin match at the O2 Arena late Mon­day de­spite ob­vi­ous dis­com­fort, dig­ging deep to save four match points be­fore even­tu­ally suc­cumb­ing to a tena­cious David Gof­fin.

With No­vak Djokovic and Andy Mur­ray side­lined through in­jury, Fed­erer is the only gen­uine star left in London and is the clear fa­vorite to lift his sev­enth year-end ti­tle at the grand old age of 36.

For all the show­biz vibe at the event, the num­bers do not lie – all the re­main­ing com­peti­tors at the tour­na­ment have a sin­gle Grand Slam ti­tle be­tween them, com­pared to Fed­erer’s haul of 19.

Nadal, who pulled out of the Paris Masters this month with a knee in­jury, said it was a “mir­a­cle” that he stayed so close to Gof­fin dur­ing his 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4 de­feat, in­sist­ing he had done all he could.

“My sea­son is fin­ished,” the Spa­niard said. “Yeah, I had the com­mit­ment with the event, with the city, with my­self. I tried hard. I did the thing that I had to do to try to be ready to play. But I am re­ally not ready to play.”

“Is about the pain,” Nadal added. “I can­not hold with enough power to keep play­ing. I tried, but se­ri­ously it was a mir­a­cle to be very close in the score dur­ing the match. It re­ally doesn’t make sense.”

The Spa­niard, who will be re­placed in the event by his com­pa­triot and world No. 10 Pablo Car­reno Busta, said he hopes to be ready for the start of the 2018 sea­son.

“I am, of course, dis­ap­pointed,” he said. “But I am not go­ing to cry. I had a great sea­son. I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate all the things that hap­pened to me dur­ing the whole sea­son. Thanks life for this un­for­get­table one.

“I am go­ing to work hard to try to give me more chances the next sea­son to keep be­ing at the top and fight­ing for the most im­por­tant things.”

Nadal has had a re­mark­able year af­ter miss­ing a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of 2016 through in­jury, win­ning a 10th French Open ti­tle, cruis­ing to vic­tory at the U.S. Open and re­gain­ing the world No. 1 spot.

But his lat­est in­jury will once again raise ques­tions about how long his 31-year-old body can cope with the pun­ish­ing de­mands of his phys­i­cal brand of ten­nis.

“I can’t com­plain. I feel very lucky about all the things that are hap­pen­ing to me,” said Nadal.

“But on the other hand, it is true that I am prob­a­bly the top player that had more in­juries and more trou­bles in the ca­reers of every­one. It is al­ways about this chal­lenge. But I am used to this and I know what I have to do. I think I am ready to do it.”

The Spa­niard is the only one of the “Big Four” never to have won the ATP Fi­nals and has pulled out a num­ber of times pre­vi­ously be­fore the event, which is played on a fast in­door sur­face rather than his favoured clay. And his exit de­prives the event of the chance of a dream fi­nal with Fed­erer, which would have given Nadal the chance to hit back af­ter four straight de­feats to his eter­nal ri­val this year.

So who is left to chal­lenge the Swiss? For­mer U.S. Open cham­pion Marin Cilic and Amer­ica’s Jack Sock, fresh from win­ning the Paris Masters, are in his sec­tion, the Boris Becker group, along with Alexan­der Zverev.

World No. 3 Zverev, 20, has set tongues wag­ging hav­ing won five tournaments this year, in­clud­ing beat­ing Fed­erer in the fi­nal of the Rogers Cup in Canada.

Nadal’s con­queror Gof­fin, Do­minic Thiem, Grigor Dim­itrov and Car­reno Busta lurk in the Pete Sam­pras group but none of those names will send shivers down Fed­erer’s spine.

There’s no doubt that this is a ma­jor chance for some­body to step up and make a name for them­selves but with Fed­erer still alive and kick­ing it would take a brave man to pre­dict the start of a new era yet. –

Nadal’s last match against Gof­fin ended in an un­ex­pected de­feat.

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