On Thursday evening, Rafael Nadal fought hard to overcome Stefanos Tsitsipas challenge. The Spaniard defeated the defending champion by 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to make it to the semi-final.
The world number 2 is in the semis of the ATP Nitto finals for the sixth time and will be eyeing to win the title which has eluded him in his career. Nadal in the post-match interview said
“To be in the semi-finals here, in the last tournament of the year, is an important thing. I am happy about that and I am looking forward to the semi-finals against Daniil Medvedev.”
Last year, the Spaniard came on top when these two clashed in the same tournament. He came out victorious after a match that lasted for 2 hours and 52 minutes. This time Rafa won it in just over two hours to extend his ATP head to head lead to 6-1.
“I still won two matches like last year,” Nadal said. “Last year, I was a little bit unlucky not to be in the semi-finals. The year before I had to pull out. It is always difficult to play here against the best players in the world every single day at the end of the season. Most of the time, you get here a little bit tired, but this year is a little bit different. I am just excited to be in the semi-finals and I hope to be ready to try my best.”
Nadal has now won 71 consecutive matches after winning the first set. He will be up against Daniil Medvedev of Russia in the semi-final whom he beat in the final of the US Open in 2019.
There was little to set both players apart in the beginning as both of them relied on their impressive serves but eventually it was the old master who drew the first blood and got better off Tsitsipas.
Rafa then made it quite clear that he wanted to attack his opponents backhand with forehand. Tsitsipas looked unsettle by it and made an error to face the breakpoint. The second seed cruised through the rest of the opener, after delivering an ace to move within a set of the semi-finals.
The 22-year-old took care of his service games to hang in there with Nadal, who won four of his first nine service games at love. His backhand began firing, as he ripped a short-angled winner to save an early break point.
As the match went on, the rallies became long and laborious and Nadal hit his first double fault of the match to lose the set.
“I think I played quite well for such a long time,” Nadal said. “That game at 5-4 in the second set affected the match a little bit. I lost the second set and then I was able to have the break in the third set earlier, but then he broke me back.
“I thought I was winning my serves quite comfortably until that moment. After that, everything changed a little bit. I think I started to serve a little bit worse but, in general terms, it was a very positive match for me.”
As we know, Nadal has a brilliant record in the deciding sets and he once again showed his mental toughness and skill.
The final set started with three consecutive breaks, and Nadal dug out of a 0/30 hole at 2-1 before holding with good serving. Tsitsipas misfired on an inside-out forehand to give Nadal a big break, and that’s all the Spaniard needed, finishing off his win with a backhand winner up the line.
Tsitsipas was trying to become the second-youngest player to defend his Nitto ATP Finals title. Lleyton Hewitt from Australia is the only player who has done this way back in 2002 when he was 21 years old.