Rafael Nadal authored one of his best comebacks of his historic career Wednesday in London at the ATP Finals.
The Spaniard was down 5-1 in the final set with Daniil Medvedev who was serving 40-30 at match point. Nadal saved it and then proceeded to clay his way back in the match to somehow level at 5-all. About fifteen minutes later, he took the match in a breaker 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(4).
“I’ve been super lucky,” Nadal said. “Sorry for Daniil. It’s a tough loss. He was playing much better than me in the third set. It’s one of these days, one out of 1,000, where you win.
“I know from my personal experience how tough it is to close out matches, especially when you have two breaks in front and you lose the first one. [At 3-5], I thought I had a chance. I think I was a little bit better in the end. In general terms, I think I was playing much better than two days ago, so that’s a very positive thing for me.”
Medvedev edged out a tough opening set before Nadal started to find his form in the second. But the Russian simply couldn’t get over the hump in the end.
“Today the serve worked well again. I think that the beginning of the third I was two breaks down, but I didn’t play that bad. Just couple of points there, and he played well and I made a couple of mistakes,” Nadal said. “That’s it. No, no, the serve I’m happy with.”
Medvedev, who had such a second half surge, has now lost his last three matches.
“Rafa fought his best, because he could just say ‘OK, it’s over at 5-1 and just give me the point,’ but we all know Rafa is not about this,” Medvedev said. “I just need to close out such matches.”
Stefanos Tsitsipas closed the day out with a very impressive 6-3, 6-2 win over defending champion to lock up a spot in the Saturday semifinals.
On Friday, Tsitsipas will meet Nadal with the winner taking the top seed spot in the group. If Nadal loses, he’s out.
Medvedev is still alive but must beat Zverev in two sets while Tsitsipas beats Nadal.
Before then, a big Bjorn Borg Group showdown is set for Thursday between former champions Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer who meet for a 49th time.
Djokovic leads 26-22 over the Swiss with a memorable most recent meeting at Wimbledon in July. He’s also 3-2 against Federer at the ATP Finals.
“I think it’s all flushed away from my side. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then,” Federer said of Wimbledon. “I wasn’t hoping him not to be in my section or in my draw. I didn’t hope I was never going to play him again. Actually, it’s good for me to play him again, and maybe that all helps to get a chance to get him back or whatever it is. But at the end of the day, I’m here for the Finals and not because of the Wimbledon finals.
“I’m excited playing against him,” Federer said. “I think I need to focus on my game, what I do best. And regardless of what I need to do, I just hope I play well.”
The de facto quarterfinal match will put the winner in the semifinals against the top player from the Agassi group (either Tsitsipas or Nadal).
And if Djokovic loses, Nadal will clinch the No. 1 ranking for 2019.
Dominic Thiem also meets Matteo Berrettini. Thiem has already won the group.
THURSDAY ATP FINALS LONDON SCHEDULE
Centre Court Starts At 12:00 Noon
RR 2 Lukasz Kubot-Marcelo Melo v 4 Rajeev Ram-Joe Salisbury
Not Before 2:00 Pm
RR 5 Dominic Thiem v 8 Matteo Berrettini
Not Before 6:00 Pm
RR 5 Raven Klaasen-Michael Venus v 8 Ivan Dodig-Filip Polasek
Not Before 8:00 Pm
RR 2 Novak Djokovic v 3 Roger Federer
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