2019 ATP Finals: Will Rafael Nadal overcome the knockouts barrier this time around?
World No.1 Rafael Nadal will be making his 9th appearance at the season-ending ATP Finals and from his eight previous appearances at the tournaments, the Spaniard has faced three group stage exits, one each in 2009, 2011, and 2017.
Over the years, accumulated injuries at the fag end of a season have prevented Nadal from making regular appearances at the season-ending tournament. Since 2011, the Spaniard has made only three ATP Finals appearances, missing the tournament in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018.
For a player of the Spaniard's calibre, Nadal has a rather pedestrian 16-13 win-loss record at the tournament, a tally which comprises of eight group-stage losses, three semifinal defeats and two losses in finals (2010, 2013). In fact, Nadal is one of three players to have twice made the finals of the ATP Finals and lost on both occasions, the others being Vitas Gerulaitis (1979, 1981) and Jim Courier (1991-92).
At the 2019 ATP Finals, Nadal has a combined 71-49 record against the other seven competitors, enjoying head-to-head leads against everyone else except Novak Djokovic, who enjoys a 26-28 lead.
The Spaniard finds himself in a group alongside defending champion Alexander Zverev, and tournament debutants - Daniil Medvedev, and Stefanos Tsitsipas. The trio collectively have one win in 12 meetings with Nadal, with Tsitsipas beating the Spaniard in the Madrid Masters semifinals this season.
Nadal's probable opponents in the semifinal are Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, and Matteo Berrettini. At the ATP Finals, Nadal is 2-3 against Djokovic and 1-4 against Federer.
The Spaniard needs to go unbeaten in group-stage play and reach the final, in order to thwart Djokovic from clinching a record-equalling 6th year-end No.1 ranking. Nadal can also clinch the year-end No.1 for the 5th time in his career if Djokovic fails to reach the final or does not earn 640 points more than the Spaniard at the 2019 ATP Finals.