Rafa Nadal celebrates his victory over Tsitsipas. .
Rafael Nadal retaliated for last year’s disappointment at the ATP Finals and this time achieved qualification for the semi-finals, five seasons later, by defeating the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas by 6-4, 4-6 and 6-2.
After four editions marked by injuries and bad luck – last year he did not pass the first phase despite winning two games – the Manacor tennis player returns to the penultimate round of the ATP Finals, after surviving the face or cross that meant the encounter before Tsitsipas.
On his way to what would be his first wound as a teacher, the Russian will now cross Daniil Medvedev undefeated, including triumph against Novak Djokovic, and with the credential of the Masters 1000 of Paris-Bercy achieved ten days ago.
But to access the Muscovite key to those semifinals, Nadal had to get rid of an always dangerous Tsitsipas on these tracks as shown by the title he won here last year and which he will no longer be able to defend.
The Athenian, aware that he had to be aggressive to have any option, displayed a great attack game as Nadal adjusted the band of his hair to the other side of the list.
Tried to creak at impossible angles and outrun him at speed, but the Balearic held the stake of the first six games, in which even the Spanish did not take advantage of two break balls, and began to tip the scales.
When Tsitsipas lowered the level slightly, without him knowing it, the game was leaving. It happened with 4-4 in the solitary marker of the O2 Arena. He marched 30-15 up with his serve, but missed twice on the backhand, double-faulted and missed the set.
In the blink of an eye, the Hellenic had just said goodbye to a good part of the match and for this only three points had been enough. That’s the magic of these fast tracks.
To the more unfortunate of the Hellenic, a fatal fact stood out for him. Nadal has won the last 70 games in which he has taken the first set. A devastating statistic that began in Acapulco 2019, when he fell to Nick Kyrgios.
The Spanish knockout could have been greater, but he could not convert the breaking ball that he had at the beginning of the second set. He gave oxygen to a Tsitsipas who looked at his stands looking for support from his father, Apostolos, who also works as a coach.
But there was no solution there for the blistering speed of Nadal’s forehand, who fired winning shot after winning shot when Tsitsipas left some loophole.
It took a Greek in Spanish to regain lost ground. After only losing one service point in the entire set, Nadal surrendered four in the 10th game, including a double fault, who sent the second set to Greece.
The party headed to a dramatic third set, which began with three exchanges of ‘breaks’ and in which Nadal began to be less comfortable with the service.
He was able to withstand the attacks and went bankrupt once more to definitively end this group stage.
The triumph this time for Nadal had a happy ending and he will be in the semifinals of the ATP Finals. He will fight for his first final on these tracks since 2013 against Medvedev, which he dominates in the head-to-head 3-0, having been every match on hard court, including the US Open final in 2019 and a match here in the group stage last year.