Otago Daily Times
Nadal’s hopes of first title still alive
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