Rafael Nadal books place in ATP Finals semis by beating Stefanos Tsitsipas

Tanya Simon
November 20, 2020

Thiem was assured of winning the group after beating Tsitsipas and Nadal in the first two rounds.

Dominic Thiem slumped to defeat against Andrey Rublev in a dead rubber at the ATP Finals on Thursday as reigning champion Stefanos Tsitsipas and Rafael Nadal prepared for a shootout to reach the semi-finals.

Nadal failed to take the first two breakpoints on offer in the contest, though a pair of unforced Tsitsipas errors nosed the Spaniard ahead. Last year, Nadal finished the Round Robin stage with a 2-1 record but still it wasn't enough for him to make the semifinal at The O2 Arena.

The world number three struck 37 clean winners to claim his second round-robin victory and reigning champion Stefanos Tsitsipas's narrow defeat of Andrey Rublev later guaranteed the Austrian a semi-final spot with a match to spare.

Tsitsipas was again under pressure in his next service game and this time he cracked, double-faulting on break point.

The 22-year-old did a much better job of dominating on his own serve in the second set but got nowhere near Nadal's until the Spaniard served to stay in the set at 4-5.

A superb backhand pass and an excellent dink from the net put him 30-0 up and while Nadal hit back, a risky drop shot earned Tsitsipas two set points.

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It was a dynamic effort from Tsitsipas, whose second serve could not withstand Nadal's onslaught in the decider as the Greek fell short of the semifinals. "I think I played quite well for such a long time", Nadal said.

US Open champion Thiem, playing significantly below par, tried to dig deep against Rublev, who has had a breakthrough season, winning five titles. "So, of course, with the fact that I was already qualified in the back of my mind, it was maybe hard today to keep that intensity alive".

Rublev regrouped, broke Thiem after a long next game featuring some intense rallies, then served out the match for his first win in his debut at the season-ending tournament. "I had match point and I was serving, so it could have been a completely different story if I won two matches", Rublev said on court.

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.

The Russian took advantage of an off day for his opponent to score a 6-2 7-5 victory, a fine way to end a year in which he has won a tour-leading five titles.

Murray has failed to hit the same heights with Skupski, although they did reach the semi-finals of the US Open past year and were agonisingly close to qualifying for the O2 this time around.

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