Otago Daily Times

Nadal’s hopes of first title still alive

TEN­NIS

- Sports · Tennis · Rafael Nadal · London · ATP World Tour Finals · Stefanos Tsitsipas · Dominic Thiem · Andrei Rublev · Tokyo · Novak Djokovic · Alexander Zverev · Daniil Medvedev

LON­DON: Rafael Nadal’s hopes of win­ning the year­end­ing ATP Fi­nals for the first time live on af­ter the Spa­niard beat de­fend­ing cham­pion Ste­fanos Tsit­si­pas 6­4, 4­6, 6­2 yes­ter­day.

The last round­robin match in the Lon­don group had be­come a straight knock­out, both men hav­ing lost to Do­minic Thiem and beaten An­drey Rublev ear­lier in the week.

But it was Spa­niard Nadal who al­ways ap­peared the more likely win­ner despite a lapse which al­lowed Tsit­si­pas to ex­tend the con­test into a de­cider at a nearde­serted O2 Arena.

Af­ter a flurry of ser­vice breaks at the start of the third set, the 34­year­old Nadal showed all his ex­pe­ri­ence to pull away and reach the semi­fi­nals for the first time in five years.

As group run­ner­up be­hind Aus­trian Thiem, he will face Daniil Medvedev for a place in the fi­nal, the Rus­sian al­ready as­sured of top spot in the Tokyo group.

World No 1 No­vak Djokovic was to play Alexan­der Zverev this morn­ing, the win­ner to play Thiem in the other semi­fi­nal.

‘‘In gen­eral this was a very pos­i­tive match for me,’’ Nadal, who despite win­ning 20 grand slam ti­tles has only two run­ner­sup places to show for his pre­vi­ous nine ap­pear­ances at the ATP Fi­nals, said.

‘‘Ex­cited to be in the semi­fi­nals.’’

Tsit­si­pas, who en­joyed his break­through mo­ment in Lon­don last year when, aged 21, he beat Thiem in the fi­nal, was down­beat about his per­for­mance.

‘‘I fought hard in the sec­ond set but very dis­ap­pointed with the third.

‘‘I was rush­ing and didn’t know what I was try­ing to do, hon­estly. I should have been a bit more clever,’’ he said.

Rus­sian young­ster An­drey Rublev ear­lier signed off from his maiden ATP Fi­nals in style by beat­ing Do­minic Thiem 6­2, 7­5.

The ag­gres­sive 23­year­old took full ad­van­tage of a rather flat per­for­mance by Thiem who had al­ready sealed his place in the semi­fi­nals with two wins in the Lon­don Group.

De­feats by Nadal and Tsit­si­pas meant Rublev could not ad­vance but the $153,000 and 200 rank­ing points for a group stage proved a size­able car­rot.

But for a dou­ble fault when he had a match point against Tsit­si­pas on Tues­day, Rublev could now be look­ing at a place in the semi­fi­nals.

In­stead he will leave Lon­don full of be­lief af­ter a su­perb 2020 in which he won a sea­son­lead­ing five ti­tles.

‘‘I was so close in my sec­ond match. I had match point and I was serv­ing, so it could have been a com­pletely dif­fer­ent story if I won two matches,’’ Rublev said. — Reuters

 ?? PHOTO: REUTERS ?? Pumped . . . Spa­niard Rafael Nadal cel­e­brates af­ter beat­ing Greek Ste­fanos Tsit­si­pas in his fi­nal round­robin match in the ATP Fi­nals in Lon­don yes­ter­day. Nadal won 6­4, 4­6, 6­2.
PHOTO: REUTERS Pumped . . . Spa­niard Rafael Nadal cel­e­brates af­ter beat­ing Greek Ste­fanos Tsit­si­pas in his fi­nal round­robin match in the ATP Fi­nals in Lon­don yes­ter­day. Nadal won 6­4, 4­6, 6­2.

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