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ATP Finals 2019: Rafael Nadal vs Stefanos Tsitsipas, preview and prediction

ANALYST
Preview
Modified 21 Dec 2019, 01:02 IST

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal

Fighting like a gladiator against Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday, Rafael Nadal, scripted one of the most remarkable comeback stories of the year in his second round-robin match of the Nitto ATP Finals at the O2 Arena in London. He was 1-5 down in the deciding set and on the brink of elimination, but he roared back to clinch the match in the tiebreaker.

After snatching a 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 victory from the jaws of defeat against the Russian, the 19-time Grand Slam champ will now take on Stefanos Tsitsipas in his final round-robin encounter as he eyes a semifinal berth at this year’s season-ending championship.

Rafael Nadal achieved a staggering comeback to beat Medvedev
Rafael Nadal achieved a staggering comeback to beat Medvedev

However, Nadal's chances of qualifying lie in Medvedev’s hands as much as they lie in his own. A victory for Alexander Zverev against Medvedev would bring down the curtains on the Spaniard’s surge towards the last 4.

But as they say, we can only control the controllable, and Nadal would just look to beat the in-form Greek in order to remain in contention.

After beating Medvedev and Zverev comprehensively in his opening couple of round-robin matches, Tsitsipas has already sealed his semis berth. His upcoming clash against the Spaniard would act like a practice session for him before he takes on either Dominic Thiem or Roger Federer in the semifinals.

Stefanos Tsitsipas(L) and Rafael Nadal before Rogers Cup 2018 final
Stefanos Tsitsipas(L) and Rafael Nadal before Rogers Cup 2018 final

In their five meetings on the ATP tour so far, Nadal overwhelmingly leads Tsitsipas 4-1 in the head-to-head tally. The Greek’s only win against the Spaniard came at the Madrid Masters 1000 earlier this May.

Interestingly, apart from his solitary win over Nadal, Tsitsipas has not taken a won a set off the Spaniard. He was schooled in their last meeting on a hard court, as he bowed out in straight sets in the semi-final at this year's Australian Open.

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Nitto ATP World Tour Finals - Stefanos Tsitsipas
Nitto ATP World Tour Finals - Stefanos Tsitsipas

However, Tsistsipas is a much-improved player now as compared to what he was before the beginning of the 2019 season. His twin wins in as many matches in his debut appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals this year stand testimony to his hard work and persistence.

While Nadal achieved a staggering comeback in the deciding set to beat Medvedev, doubts continue to loom over his performance and fitness as he prepares himself to take on Tsitsipas in a must-win encounter.

In his two matches so far at the O2 Arena, the 21-year-old Greek has been broken just once. Nadal cannot afford any letdown in his service games against a player like Tsitsipas in this upcoming clash.

We can expect a string of high-octane exchanges between Nadal’s lefty forehand and Tsitsipas’ single-handed backhand. If the Greek can manage to hold his own in that battle, the Spaniard will find it difficult to exert his dominance.

Can Nadal, who will end this year as the No. 1 ranked player in the world following Novak Djokovic’s surprising loss against Federer, edge past Tsitsipas and stay in the hunt for the semi-finals? Or will Tsitsipas upset Nadal to remain the only player unbeaten in the tournament?

Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in straight sets.

Published 15 Nov 2019, 12:57 IST
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