After being thoroughly outplayed by defending champion Alexander Zverev at the ATP Finals, Rafael Nadal declined to make any excuses.
The top-ranked Spaniard wouldn’t blame the abdominal issue that forced him to pull out of the Paris Masters semifinals just nine days earlier, or a hand injury that kept him sidelined before that. And he bristled at the notion that his recent marriage could be a factor in a sub-par performance.
Something was clearly off for Nadal, though, who lost 6-2, 6-4 to a player he had a perfect 5-0 record versus before Monday’s match at the O2 Arena.
Nadal dropped his serve three straight times, didn’t force a single break point, and his normally powerful forehand was responsible for more than four times as many unforced errors (13) as winners (3). Still, Nadal insisted there was nothing wrong with him physically.
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”I did not feel pain in the abdominal at all”, he said. ”So the physical issue was not an excuse at all. The only excuse is I was not good enough tonight”.
Nadal hasn’t finished a tournament since winning the U.S. Open in August, also pulling out of Shanghai because of a hand injury.
That lack of playing time certainly isn’t helpful coming into an event featuring only the top eight players in the world, rather than lower-ranked early opponents.
He still has to face Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev in round-robin play, and probably has to defeat both in order to reach the semifinals.
For Zverev, this latest victory means he has defeated each of tennis’ Big Three in his last three matches at the O2.
The German defeated six-time champion Roger Federer in last year’s semifinals and then five-time winner Novak Djokovic in the final. “It’s definitely a place and a court that I love, and that brings maybe the best out of me,” the seventh-seeded German said.
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