'I wanted to beat Rafael Nadal and prove myself,' top-10 star recalls

“I wanted to beat Rafael Nadal and prove myself,” recalls the Top 10 star

Andrey Rublev left injuries behind in 2020 and fulfilled the potential that made him a top 10 player. Rublev clinched the tour-leading five ATP titles in the reduced season to secure a spot at the ATP Finals in London for the first time.

Eager to pick up where he left off after three ATP 500 titles and two Major quarterfinals, Andrey played his first London match against 20-time Major champion Rafael Nadal. The Russian lost 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 17 minutes after failing to shake off the pressure.

Rublev admitted he had to deal with massive stress against his idol. He wanted to show his best tennis on the big stage but was overwhelmed by the opportunity and rival on the net. The more experienced Spaniard had the upper hand, dropping 12 points in ten service games and never struggling after the first shot.

Rafa aggressively returned Andrey’s serves and grabbed a single break in each set to earn the 19th ATP Finals win. Nadal hit 16 winners and 11 unforced errors, leaving the Russian with 19 winners and 23 errors. Andrey failed to return almost 40% of Rafa’s serves, making too many mistakes and not bringing the rival out of his comfort zone.

Nadal had a clear 44:28 advantage in the fastest rallies up to four shots. He stayed aggressive, returning Rublev’s second serves inside the court to gain the advantage. The encounter started with five strong holds before Rafa took a 4-2 lead after Andrey’s forehand error.

A service winner sent Nadal 5-2 up, and he produced three winners in game nine to wrap up the opener in 36 minutes.

Andrey Rublev lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets at the ATP Finals.

The Spaniard maintained his level, clawing a break in the first game of set number two to forge a massive lead.

Rafa held after deuce in game two with a service winner to get closer to the finish line. A service winner pushed Nadal up 4-2 and he served 5-4 to win. Rafa earned his tenth home game at 15 to cross the finish line and make a strong start in London.

“One win wasn’t enough to advance to the ATP Finals. If I had won that match against Tsitsipas, I might have made it to the semifinals. Nobody knows how things would have turned out. Understandably, it looks like there wasn’t a chance.

In the match against Nadal I couldn’t handle the pressure. I knew I was having a good season and had the right level of play. I wanted to show that I’m ready to fight with players like Nadal. I was overwhelmed when the stress got too much. That’s when you really want something,” said Andrey Rublev.

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