Competing at the ATP Finals for the tenth time, Rafael Nadal scored the 19th victory over Andrey Rublev. World no. 2 defeated the young Russian 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 17 minutes, bouncing back following the Paris loss to Alexander Zverev and making a winning start in the last ATP Finals edition in London.
It was their first clash since the US Open 2017 and the Spaniard had the upper hand, dropping 12 points in ten service games and never facing a break point. Returning Rublev's serves with aggression, Rafa broke the opponent once in each set to notch the victory and add 200 points to his tally.
Dominating with his initial shot, Nadal had 16 winners and 11 unforced errors, leaving the Russian on 19 winners and 23 mistakes. Hitting a service winner in almost 40% of all the points behind the initial shot, Rafa had a massive 44-28 advantage in the shortest rallies up to four strokes, standing in the court on the second-serve return and earning those two breaks that carried him over the top.
Nadal hit a service winner in the opening game for a promising start before Rublev responded in the same style to get his name on the scoreboard. The Spaniard held at love in the third game with another unreturned serve, followed by an ace from Andrey who leveled the score at 2-2.
A forehand down the line winner secured another comfortable hold for the Spaniard in game five, staying in the next game on the return and gaining a break when the Russian sprayed a forehand error to open a 4-2 gap. A service winner sent Rafa 5-2 in front following a deuce, serving for the set at 5-3.
Rafael Nadal needed 77 minutes to beat Andrey Rublev in straight sets.
World no. 2 hit three winners to close the opener in 36 minutes, playing well so far and hoping for more of the same in set number two. With momentum on his side, Nadal grabbed a break in the first game of the second set, holding after deuce with a service winner to move 6-3, 2-0 in front.
Andrey sprayed a forehand error in game four to find himself 3-1 down, holding with a forehand winner in game five to remain in touch. A service winner sent Nadal 4-2 up before Rublev held at love to reduce the deficit. The Spaniard forced an error from his opponent in game eight, forcing Rublev to serve for staying in the match.
The youngster held after a deuce to extend his chances before Nadal held at 15 with an unreturned serve to seal the deal and score an opening victory.