Rafael Nadal insisted he can still win the ATP Finals for the first time despite a damaging 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/4) defeat against Austria’s Dominic Thiem on Tuesday, reports AFP.
Thiem overpowered Nadal behind closed doors at London’s O2 Arena to put a dent in the Spanish star’s bid to finally lift the one major prize missing from his packed trophy cabinet.
Thiem became the first player to qualify for the semi-finals a few hours later when reigning champion Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Russian seventh seed Andrey Rublev 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (8/6).
Tsitsipas saved a match point in the final set tie-break before the Greek sixth seed sealed his first win of the week.
Nadal had beaten Rublev in straight sets in his first match, but the 34-year-old was unable to cope with Thiem in a high-quality clash.
Now Nadal, who lost the 2010 and 2013 finals of the event, has to beat Tsitsipas in his last group match to keep alive his hopes of reaching the semi-finals of the prestigious season-ending tournament.
Despite his perilous position, Nadal took heart from the way he competed against the inspired Thiem.
He believes that will stand him in good stead in a showdown with Tsitsipas that decides the second semi-finalist from the group.
“He played I think an amazing match, and I played well too. So my feeling is not negative. I lost, but I had plenty of chances in the first and then I had break up in the second set, Nadal said.
Nadal, who last month equalled Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slams by winning the French Open, has won 86 titles but just one of those has come on an indoor hard court.
The world number two has qualified for the ATP Finals for 16 years in a row, but his record at the eight-man elite event pales in comparison with Federer and Novak Djokovic after six injury withdrawals.