Unlike in 2019, Rafael Nadal made a strong start at the last year's ATP Finals in London. Competing at only the fourth ATP event since the season restart, Rafa came to London at 100% physically, hoping to lift the first trophy at this event.
In the first round-robin clash, the Spaniard defeated Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 17 minutes, bouncing back after the Paris Masters semi-final loss to Alexander Zverev and getting back on a winning way. It was their first clash since the US Open 2017, and world no.
2 had the strings in his hands, dropping 12 points in ten service games and never facing troubles behind the initial shot. Returning Rublev's serves aggressively, Rafa grabbed one break in each set to notch the victory and attach 200 points to his tally.
Nadal had 16 winners and 11 unforced errors, leaving the Russian on 19 winners and 23 mistakes, too many if he wanted to challenge the better-ranked opponent. Hitting a service winner in almost 40% of all the points behind the initial shot, Rafa forged a massive 44-28 advantage in the shortest rallies up to four strokes, receiving the second serve from inside the court and securing those two breaks to sprint over the finish line.
The Spaniard held in the opener's fifth game with a forehand down the line winner and secured a break in the next one when the Russian sprayed a forehand error.
Rafael Nadal defeated Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4 in 77 minutes in London last year.
A service winner sent Rafa 5-2 in front, and he hit three direct points at 5-3 to close the opener in 36 minutes. With momentum on his side, Nadal grabbed a break in the second set's first game and held after deuce with a service winner to forge a 6-3, 2-0 advantage.
A service winner pushed Nadal 4-2 up before Rublev held at love to reduce the deficit and extend his chances. The Spaniard forced an error from his opponent in game eight and brought the tenth game home at 15 with an unreturned serve to seal the deal and make a winning start.
"It feels like a positive start when you win in straight sets. It's important for confidence, especially if you serve like I did tonight. I played against someone who has had a great season, and I wish Andrey the best in the future.
He made more mistakes than usual, so it was not a perfect match. Still, there are no easy rivals at the ATP Finals, and every of those brings maximum pressure," Rafael Nadal said.