Nadal pulls out of ATP fi­nals

The New Age (Gauteng) - - SPORT -

RAFAEL Nadal pulled out of the ATP fi­nals on Mon­day, ad­mit­ting he had lost his fit­ness bat­tle af­ter crash­ing to de­feat in three sets to David Gof­fin in a thrilling en­counter.

The world No 1 dug deep but was stunned 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (4/7), 6-4 by Gof­fin in his open­ing match of the end of sea­son fi­nale, which he has never won in his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer.

The Spa­niard came into the tour­na­ment with doubts swirling over his fit­ness af­ter pulling out of the Paris Mas­ters with a knee in­jury.

Ini­tially he showed no ob­vi­ous ill­ef­fects dur­ing a roller coaster roundrobin en­counter in front of a sup­port­ive crowd but even­tu­ally his in­jury caught up with him and forced him to ad­mit his sea­son was over.

“No, I am off. My sea­son is fin­ished. 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,” Nadal said.

“It’s about the pain. 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.”

Nadal said he would work hard to be ready for the start of the next sea­son. “I know all the things that hap­pened in the past when I had these things and I know the treat­ment that I had to do.

“I know the pe­ri­ods of time that I need to work. Then if the treat­ment works or not, we will see.”

Nadal, 31, strug­gled to find his range early in front of a rau­cous crowd root­ing for him and was bro­ken twice in the first set by the Bel­gian sev­enth seed, who had lost their pre­vi­ous two en­coun­ters.

The Spa­niard ap­peared to have earned a psy­cho­log­i­cal edge when Gof­fin dou­ble-faulted while serv­ing for the set and the match went into a tie-break but the Bel­gian re­found his fo­cus to come out on top.

The sec­ond set went with serve un­til the eighth game, when Gof­fin broke to earn a chance to serve for the match, only for Nadal to break back.

Gof­fin had a golden chance to seal the match in Nadal’s next ser­vice game but failed to put away a mid-court fore­hand on match point and the left-han­der lev­elled at 5-5.

The Bel­gian com­posed him­self to hold and then earned three more match points but Nadal, show­ing in­cred­i­ble grit and play­ing right at the limit, saved all three to take it to an­other tie-break, which he won.

In the de­cider, Nadal ap­peared to feel dis­com­fort in his right knee as he went two breaks down but still he re­fused to ad­mit de­feat, re­cov­er­ing a break be­fore even­tu­ally suc­cumb­ing.

“It was a tough fight un­til the end,” a re­lieved Gof­fin said. “Rafa is one of the strong­est play­ers men­tally on the tour. I am so happy to fi­nally find the key to win this match. It is so spe­cial to do it here.”

Nadal has won 75 sin­gles ti­tles in his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer, in­clud­ing 16 Grand Slams and 30 Mas­ters events but he has yet to tri­umph at the ATP fi­nals, played on quick in­door courts rather than his favoured clay.

Ear­lier, also in the Pete Sam­pras group, Grigor Dim­itrov held his nerve to beat Do­minic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 7-5.

The el­e­gant Bul­gar­ian had the edge for most of an en­thralling con­test of one­handed back­hands but ad­mit­ted he felt “pretty ner­vous” in his first ap­pear­ance at the ATP fi­nals.

The sixth seed looked wob­bly as he blew his chance to serve for the match at 5-4 in the de­cider only to hit back im­me­di­ately as Thiem fal­tered and go­ing on to seal vic­tory on his third match point.

The ATP Fi­nals fea­ture the top eight fit male sin­gles play­ers and dou­bles teams that have ac­crued the most points through­out the 2017 sea­son. – AFP

PIC­TURE: PROSPORTSIMAGES/DPPI

ABRUPT END: In­jured World No1 Rafael Nadal hopes to be ready for next sea­son.

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