In­jured Nadal ends sea­son

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

LON­DON — The spirit was as strong as ever but Rafael Nadal’s trou­ble­some knee failed him in the end as the Spa­niard quit the ATP Fi­nals af­ter a painful de­feat by Bel­gium’s David Gof­fin on Mon­day night.

Nadal, at 31 the old­est ten­nis player to fin­ish a year ranked num­ber one, fought un­til the last point, sav­ing four match points in a com­pelling Pete Sam­pras Group clash, be­fore los­ing 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4 in two hours and 37 min­utes.

World num­ber eight Gof­fin, the first player from Bel­gium to qual­ify for the year-end­ing tour­na­ment in its 48-year his­tory, was a bun­dle of nerves at times but fi­nally stead­ied him­self to put Nadal out of his mis­ery with his 14th ace.

Nadal could be seen gri­mac­ing as the match wore on, es­pe­cially when he was forced wide or low, but he still man­aged to scrap his way back from 4-1 down in the de­cider, de­spite ap­par­ently play­ing on one leg.

Min­utes af­ter de­feat, the 16-times grand slam cham­pion told re­porters that he was pulling out of the tour­na­ment.

“My sea­son is fin­ished. I had a 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,” Nadal, whose right knee flared up at the re­cent Paris Masters, said.

e Mal­lor­can, whose ca­reer has been plagued by ten­donitis, made a stun­ning come­back from a wrist in­jury this year when he reached the Australian Open fi­nal, then claimed a 10th French Open ti­tle af­ter a three-year grand slam drought.

He then went on to win the US Open and re­claim the world’s top rank­ing for the first time since 2014.

“I re­ally be­lieved that I don’t de­serve af­ter this great sea­son to spend two more days on court with this ter­ri­ble feel­ing, that’s all,” said Nadal, who will now try to re­cover for the start of next sea­son.

Gof­fin com­pleted a great day for first-time qual­i­fiers af­ter Bul­gar­ian Grigor Dim­itrov pre­vailed in a su­perb tus­sle with Aus­trian Do­minic Thiem at the 02 Arena.

It was a shame that his first win against a world num­ber one was over­shad­owed by Nadal’s mis­for­tune be­cause the nim­ble Bel­gian thor­oughly de­served his win, even if he nearly blew it.

“It’s the best win of my ca­reer,” Gof­fin, who will lead Bel­gium in the David Cup fi­nal against France, said. “It was tough even if he was not mov­ing 100 per­cent.”

Gof­fin was the bet­ter player through­out. — Rtr.

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