On the Greenwich peninsula, where the wind blows strong and the O2 looks out over the icy waters of the Thames, you can breathe an air of nostalgia these days. In the blink of an eye, the Masters Cup realizes that it is getting older and that today, despite all the vicissitudes and the Martian of this annus horribilis, it can already blow the candles of half a century. The origin goes back to Tokyo, when the mustachioed Stan Smith, iconic wearer of the sneakers that many young people proudly wear today, became the first teacher of teachers, later succeeded by Ilie Nastase, Guillermo Vilas and six courses later, in 76 , by the great Manolo Orantes. It has rained a lot since then, and more in London, which will lower the blind after 12 years as headquarters and will give the baton to Turin, the new home of the Masters.
“I think it was very wise to bring the tournament here, because it is a wonderful setting. It is also true that it is good that the tournament is moving, although it is not fair that the last year is like this, without an audience … Anyway, we are very lucky that we can continue to compete in our sport “, he regrets Rafael Nadal, eager to be able to say goodbye to the futuristic London venue with the best taste in his mouth and, therefore, to complete an extraordinary list of honors in which titles of all colors and conditions appear, but in which the prestigious master recognition still does not appear .
He resists the Mallorcan, who for one reason or another (mainly injuries) has not been able to achieve the laurel that would bring even more distinction to his career, now that he looks from you to you to Roger Federer, and that would also equate him with Andre Agassi, the only man who won absolutely everything. Nadal (34 years old) has qualified fifteen times for the Finals, although he could only participate nine times and when he had the closest prize, in 2010 and 2013, he yielded against the Swiss and Novak Djokovic, respectively.
Rafael Nadal, during a warm-up. On video, his statements prior to the Masters Cup.. / VIDEO: REUTERS-QUALITY
History, then, speaks of a repeated and manifest denial, since of the last four editions he could not parade through the O2 in two, and in the other two he did not manage to overcome the initial league. Also that the Serbian arrives more than hungry, since if he wins again he would achieve his sixth crown and equal Federer, and somehow close the course by removing the bitter aftertaste left by the beating he received in the Roland Garros final. just over a month. There are, then, factors for discouragement, but also for the opposite.
For starters, Nadal lands for the first time with the bodywork ready, without any relevant physical scratches. And that is a lot to say. “If it is the year that better arrived? I do not know. I neither agree nor disagree. They are just words and have to be translated into action. People who have opinions many times do not know very well what my state is. Perhaps last year was the best in terms of level of play … [antes de sufrir un percance abdominal en París-Bercy]. For now, the preparation is being the best possible ”, corroborates the one from Manacor.
To continue, the chaotic course of the season draws an unpredictable landscape. Filming has been minimal in most cases and thus the tournament opens more than ever. “This year, it is difficult to value anything because everything is new for everyone. The players are staying next to the O2. We cannot even walk from the hotel to the stadium, even if it is only 200 meters away ”, he points out knowing, also, that after four consecutive editions with Djokovic exercising with an iron fist, from 2012 to 2015, the event does not have a fixed owner and has entered four new champions, all of them newcomers: Andy Murray, Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
And, as a third trick, Nadal remembers his evolution in the hard-indoor format. “It doesn’t suit my game and the numbers are what they are [un único título, en el Masters de Madrid de 2005]”, He specifies. “But I’ve been getting better at it over the years. The game against Rublev will be key in the future of the tournament ”, adds the Spaniard, who stumbled in four of his debuts —with Zverev in 2019, David Goffin in 2018, Robin Soderling in 2009 and James Blake in 2006— and starts this Sunday against the Russian debutant (not before 9:00 p.m., Movistar Deportes and #Vamos), the tennis player who has achieved the most triumphs (40) and trophies (5) during this year.
“Maybe he’s the fittest one,” warns number two. “Thiem we already know what it is, and Tsitsipas defends the title,” he clarifies about the components of his group. “It is a complicated group and it will be very difficult, but we are in the Masters. What can we expect? … They will be difficult games and more on this surface. Last year I started in a very negative way. The break [abdominal] He gave me a very fair preparation and although I won the last two games it was not enough. Experience tells you that the beginning is very important. We are going to try to be prepared and I hope to be ready ”, resolves Nadal.
MASTER TOURNAMENT PROGRAM
London Group 2020: Nadal, Thiem, Tsitsipas and Rublev.
Tokyo 1970 Group: Djokovic, Medvedev, Zverev and Schwartzman.
Format. The first two of each group advance to the semifinals, in matches to the best of three sets, with a tiebreaker.
Sunday 15: Thiem-Tsitsipas (not before 3:00 p.m.) and Nadal-Rublev (not before 9:00 p.m., Movistar Deportes and #Vamos).
Monday 16: Djokovic-Schwartzman (3pm) and Medvedev-Zverev (not before 9pm).
Semifinals and final. On Saturday the 21st, at 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., and on Sunday the 22nd, at 9:00 p.m.