- 15 Nov 2020
Nitto ATP Finals, round-robin
Nadal d. Rublev, 6-3 6-4
- Key info: Nadal took advantage of a slow start by Rublev to ease to victory.
- You will also learn: Nadal has now won 70 consecutive matches after winning the opening set, a streak that dates back to last February.
- Why read this story: Find out how Nadal kicked off his tenth career appearance at the ATP Finals with a dominant performance.
Rafael Nadal began his quest for a first Nitto ATP Finals title with an efficient march to victory against Russia’s Andrey Rublev on Sunday at the 02 Arena. The Spaniard was steady from start to finish and was quick to pounce on early lapses from Rublev in both sets to earn his 19th career ATP Finals victory. Nadal has won his first round robin match at the ATP Finals five previous times, and reached the semi-finals on four of those occasions.
“Has been a positive start for me,” Nadal said on court after the match. “Always the first match is very tricky, here every match is difficult – you play against the best of the best.”
Not Rublev’s best day
Gone was the self-assertive, swashbuckling Andrey Rublev on Sunday and in his place was a deer in the headlights. The Russian, who leads the ATP Tour in titles with five and victories with 40, never really found his rhythm in the match, and this made things easy for Nadal, who took what he was given and really never required his highest gear to pull away with the victory.
Through the first six games of the match, Nadal was serving 93 percent while Rublev managed to make just 35 percent of his own serves. The 23-year-old made it through his first two service games but his forehand clipped the tape and sailed long to hand Nadal the critical break for 4-2 in the opener.
The Russian had a look at deuce in the next game but slid a backhand down the line fractionally wide and never threatened again in the set.
The second set started catastrophically for Rublev. He was broken in the opening game and could not find a way back against Nadal.
Nadal took care of business on serve and return
While Rublev started slow, Nadal played the perfect match to ensure that the Russian didn’t hit his stride. The Spaniard was strong on serve throughout the contest, and kept mistakes at a minimum from start to finish. He varied his return position and found ways to ruffle Rublev’s feathers, creating multiple break points, and converting three of five.
On serve, he was accurate, mixed locations and set himself up to hit forehands from inside the court on most occasions.
Nadal never faced a break point and dropped just 12 points on serve over the course of the one hour and 18-minute contest. The Spaniard clocked 16 winners against 11 unforced errors to improve to 26-5 on the 2020 season.
With this win, Nadal has now won the last 70 times that he has claimed the opening set in a match. The last time he dropped a match after he won the opening set was in Acapulco in 2019, when he fell to Nick Kyrgios.
Nadal has won 69 straight matches in which he claims 1st set.
— ATP Media Info (@ATPMediaInfo) November 15, 2020
A brilliant start by any measure
It’s very early in the week, and round robin matches with Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas are still to come, but Nadal has put himself in the best possible shape after his first match. He didn’t drop a set, wasn’t pushed physically, and will have plenty in the tank for the challenges that await over the next week. He’ll also pick up confidence from his second top 10 victory of the season, especially given how decisive this triumph was.
Nadal moves straight to the top of the “Group London 2020” with his victory. Here is how the standings look after one day of play in London.
Nadal 1-0 | 2-0 in sets | 12-7 in games
Thiem 1-0 | 2-1 in sets | 17-15 in games
Tsitsipas 0-1 | 1-2 in sets | 15-17 in games
Rublev 0-1 | 0-2 in sets | 7-12 in games
Nitto ATP Finals competition format
- Everyone plays every other player in their group once.
- The top player in Group Tokyo 1970 will play the runner-up from Group London 2020 in the semi-final, and vice versa.
- The standings in the table are decided first by greatest number of wins.
- Then it takes into account the greatest number of matches played (a 2-1 win-loss record beats a 2-0 win-loss record).
- After that it comes down to head-to-head results if two players are tied.
- Also read: Thiem kicks off Nitto ATP Finals with win over Tsitsipas
- Also read: Sofia Open recap – Pospisil’s wait continues as Sinner triumphs
- Also read: Sensational Sinner the Sofia winner
- Also read: ATP Finals draw – Defending champ Tsitsipas to face Nadal
- Also read: Andrey Rublev exclusive interview – “I don’t feel yet it’s real”