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Nadal hoping for first ATP Finals title after great year that could have been even better

The 22-time Grand Slam champion says his abdominal problems set him back in the second half of 2022

Rafael Nadal ATP Finals 2022 Zuma / Panoramic

For most people, winning two Grand Slams in one year would be a once in a lifetime achievement.

For Rafael Nadal, the suspicion is that it could have been even better.

But for an abdominal injury that eventually forced him to withdraw before his semi-final against Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon, the 36-year-old might have headed to the US Open chasing the calendar-year Grand Slam.

Instead, the second half of the year was a story of attrition for Nadal, who suffered another abdominal strain just before the US Open and had to take another break before returning late in the indoor season.

Speaking on media day at the ATP Finals in Turin on Friday, Nadal said he was happy to be back at the ATP Finals for a 17th time, a chance to win the tournament for the first time in his career and if not, at least to end the year on a high, on the court.

“I wanted to finish the year competing, which last year I could not do and this year I will be here to make the best possible result,” Nadal told Spanish media, as reported in Marca on Friday. “In sport you never know, you come here without rhythm, but you win a match and things change radically.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m well prepared. Then you play against the best in the world. Of course it’s better to arrive with confidence and victories. There’s no time limit for getting in shape. From the first day you play against one of the best”.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2022 (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

Injury at Wimbledon set him back

Nadal was looking strong at Wimbledon until he suffered a tear to his abdomen at Wimbledon. He somehow scrambled past Taylor Fritz in an epic quarter-final but was in no shape to play Kyrgios in the semis and chose to withdraw.

The week before the US Open, having given himself every chance to be ready to win a third slam of the year – and 23rd overall – he tore the muscle again.

“I had to go back to make a serve that was not mine and in the end there are too many things to compete with guarantees,” he said. “It is what it is and you have to live with what you have. It’s important for me to play tournaments in a row like the one I had until Indian Wells. Hopefully next year I can start with a little bit of continuity and that’s why I’ve signed up to play the first week of the year to spend more days on the circuit competing and training”.

The ATP Finals have not been a happy hunting ground for Nadal, who has often found the indoor conditions more to the liking of first Roger Federer and then more recently, Novak Djokovic, while others have also stopped him from winning the event for the first time.

Rafael Nadal at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals in London
Rafael Nadal at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals in London Image Credit: Action Plus / Panoramic

Nadal admits his failures at ATP Finals

He still reached the final twice – in 2010 and 2013 – but for someone of his quality, that’s a poor return.

“I have failed to be a better indoor player,” he said. “This is the reality of the sport. I have qualified 17 times, but I have not been competitive 17 times. I don’t know how many times I’ve been able to play the Masters with real options. Historically, indoor has been the worst surface for me, but it is true that in recent years I think I have improved significantly on this surface”.

In some ways, 2020 may just have been the one that got away for Nadal, when he served for the semi-final against Daniil Medvedev, only to go down in three sets. It was a painful loss.

“The defeat to Medvedev is one of those that have hurt me for a season,” he said. “In this sport and in life in general it’s about creating opportunities for yourself. The more chances you create for yourself, the more chances you have to win. It’s not that I’ve been nervous in this tournament but that I haven’t been good enough in this part of the year and in these circumstances”.

Rafael Nadal, ATP Finals, London, nov. 2020
Rafael Nadal despairs in the 2020 semi-final against Medvedev

Nadal still hopeful of first ATP Finals title

And yet, though he lost his first match at the Paris Masters last time out, he returns to Turin with high hopes.

“In Paris I hadn’t raced for a long time and I had a little stomach problem. I was vomiting, at the end of the third set I felt sick to my stomach. I didn’t say anything at the time because it didn’t make sense. I was sick for a day and then I was able to train normally”.

“You never know what might happen,” he said. “I’m not a fan of talking about what can happen. I’m here to get the best result I can, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”

Nadal is in the Green Group in Turin, together with Casper Ruud, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Taylor Fritz.

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