Rafael Nadal beats defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas to book place in last four of the ATP finals
Rafael Nadal produced his own soundtrack amid the deathly hush of an empty 02 Arena on Thursday night, as he powered towards the one significant title in tennis that has evaded him.
Filling the cavernous venue with his grunts, he forced his way past defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4 4-6 6-2 to make the last four of the ATP Finals.
The 34 year-old Spaniard now meets opposite group winner Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals as he seeks to win the year-end championships for the first time.
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday night
Fully fit, and fresher than normal at this time of year, Nadal will never have a better chance of victory at an event whose indoor environment is not his favourite.
What was effectively a sudden death playoff brought the best from him, and after the glitch of a double fault to lose the second set he managed to see off the 22 year-old Greek, who could not beat his elders this time around.
This afternoon, in another straight shootout to conclude the group stage, Novak Djokovic and Alex Zverev will face each other to determine the last semi-finalist, with a match against Dominic Thiem the prize.
Londoner Joe Salisbury made an impressively swift transition from self-isolation to semi-finalist earlier on when he made the last four of the doubles with partner Rajeev Ram.
Having spent the build-up to the event in quarantine for two weeks after his coach Rob Morgan tested positive for Covid, he and Ram defeated Germany’s French Open champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies 7-6 6-7 10-4 to go through from their group.
Having saved two set points in the opener they are now two wins away from Salisbury becoming the first British player to win the doubles event in this tournament’s 50-year history.
The Anglo-American duo have had a strong year together but Jamie Murray yesterday announced that he was splitting with Neal Skupski after 18 months to join up again with former partner Bruno Soares.
Murray and Skupski failed to qualify for the ATP Finals by the tiniest of margins, and that seems to have precipitated the reunion with Brazil’s Soares. The two of them enjoyed much success as a team from 2016-19, winning both the Australian and US Opens before it went stale.
This is traditionally a time of changes in the tennis year, and British number two Kyle Edmund is in the market for a new coach after splitting with Argentinian Franco Davin.
Nadal said: ‘It’s always difficult to play here against the best players in the world when you are a little bit tired at the end of the year but it is a bit different this year. I feel I am playing well.’