Don’t Count Out Nadal From Nitto ATP Finals Just Yet

WASHINGTON, November 19, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Although Rafael Nadal lost to Dominic Thiem in one of the best matches of year, during Group London 2020 play at the Nitto ATP Finals in London on Tuesday, he is still in contention for a semifinal spot. On Thursday, the No. 2 seed Nadal (1-1) will play No. 6 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, also 1-1, with the winner advancing to Saturday’s knock-out round and the loser going home to the off-season.

Nadal suggested during his virtual press conference Tuesday after losing to Thiem that if he can play his best, he will have a chance to succeed in London.

“I don’t want to pretend to be arrogant at all, because I am not,” said the World No. 2 Nadal. “But I really don’t need to show even to myself or to no one that if I am playing my best tennis, I think I can win in every surface and against any player. 

“But I never won in the [Nitto ATP] Finals. That’s the real thing at the same time. So, no problem about that. I kn ow I have to play my best if I want to have chances.”

Looking back on Tuesday’s loss, Nadal said: “I think I did all the things well during the match Just the only negative thing [is that] I was not able to convert some key points that made the biggest difference in the whole match.

“Of course [I am] sad for the loss, but at the same time [I am] happy for Dominic that he played a great match. I hope to have my chances. I think I am much more confident now with the level of tennis that I am playing than a couple of days ago. So, I just have the chance to keep going, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Negotiations “incredibly complex” for Australia

Day by day this week, the challenges continue mount regarding the difficulty in holding the Australian Open in Melbourne as planned as well as the usual tune-up tournaments which serve as lead-ins to the first Grand Slam of the year. First, on Monday, it was announced that to combat the coronavirus, tournaments normally held in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart would be transferred to the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located. Then, on Tuesday, word came that the Australian government would ban any December arrivals by pro tennis players.

Late Tuesday night, the ATP Tour sent out a memo to its members, writing: “In discussions with Tennis Australia over the past 24 hours, we have been informed there are some new challenges around the previously planned arrival dates for players and team members. We continue to work with Tennis Australia on confirming plans for January, and we will provide an update as soon as more information is available in the coming days.”

On Wednesday, Victoria’s top government official, Daniel Andrews, reiterated comments he made earlier regarding the challenges of holding the Australian Open in Melbourne, scheduled to be held Jan. 18-31 at Melbourne Park.

“It has to be done safely. It has to be done properly,” Andrews said. “We are working very, very closely with Tennis Australia. They are working [with] all of their partners, and we’re confident that we’ll finish up with an Australian Open.”

Key takeaways from WTA year-end rankings

When the WTA announced its year-end rankings on Monday, there were some key takeaways worth noting for each of the Top 5:

• No. 1 Ashleigh Barty became the 11th player to hold the WTA year-end No. 1 ranking in consecutive years.

• No. 2 Simona Halep holds the longest active streak – and eighth-best in WTA history – ranked among the WTA Top 10 at 336 consecutive weeks (as of the week of November 16).

• No. 3 Naomi Osaka ended 2020 ranked World No. 3 for the second consecutive year. In 2018, she was ranked No. 5.

• No. 4 Sofia Kenin ended the season ranked inside the Top 10 for the first time, an improvement from No. 14 a year ago.

• No. 5 Elina Svitolina holds the third-longest streak inside the Top 10 at 163 straight weeks, behind Halep’s 336 weeks and Karolina Pliskova’s 199 weeks.

Congratulations from The Rocket

What they’re writing

• Joel Drucker, tennis writer and historian, Tennis.com, on Dominic Thiem’s double-tiebreak victory over Rafael Nadal at the Nitto ATP Finals on Tuesday:

“History has proven that Rafael Nadal thrives on pressure. Surely the Spaniard is as great a competitor as tennis has ever seen. Logically, this would make such crucibles as tiebreakers even more likely to go Nadal’s way. 

“But as far as 2020 goes, the Nadal aura at crunch-time means little to Dominic Thiem. Tuesday in Lond, in a match of extremely high quality, Thiem defeated Nadal, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4). ‘I think that today I played a little bit higher level than at the US Open and was maybe the best match for me since the restart of the tour,’ said Thiem. ‘That makes me super happy.'”

• Tumaini Carayol, tennis correspondent, The Guardian of London, on Stefanos Tsitsipas growing up “being a (proper) adult and the xenophobia he faced as he pursued his career during the Greek debt crisis:

“Pressure is inevitable for any athlete, but the weight of being primed as the family’s future breadwinner and knowing you are an investment, a risk, is something more. That pressure was compounded by the xenophobic fallout of Greece’s economic dealings in Europea as he received ‘a lot of racist comments and hate’ on his travels: ‘I felt like I was being judged although it was not really my fault, I had nothing to do with any of that. That was difficult for me as a kid. I always felt like a minority whenever I went and I wanted to prove them wrong, what they thought. And I think that also, in a way, made me stronger. Looking back, it just made me want to be better.'”

What they’re sharing on social media

Karolina Pliskova / A reason to smile

Petra Kvitova / Beach training

ATP Tour / Who’s the best dancer?