Rafael Nadal had a massive opportunity to reach the first ATP Finals title match since 2013 12 months ago, serving for the victory against Daniil Medvedev in the semis after an hour and 24 minutes. Instead of sealing the deal, Rafa got broken in that tenth game while leading 6-3, 5-4, lost the tie break and allowed Daniil to rattle off four straight games in the decider and remain on the title course.
After the match, Nadal said he did not lose energy in the final set, praising his opponent who played better than him when it mattered the most and wishing the Russian all the best in the future. Daniil prevailed 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 in two hours and 35 minutes en route to his first ATP Finals title match, firing 42 winners and 29 unforced errors and leaving Rafa on a 22-30 ratio.
The Russian forged the advantage in the most advanced rallies and saved his best tennis for the last four games to set Dominic Thiem clash. Nadal held at 30 at the beginning of the encounter after forcing Medvedev's backhand error and had to dig deep in the third game before fending off three break chances.
Daniil secured the fourth game with a service winner and locked the result for the third time in game six, doing his best to remain in touch with the Spaniard from the baseline. Medvedev lost ground at 3-4 and sprayed a forehand error to suffer a break at love, allowing Rafa to take the set 6-3 on his serve.
In set number two, Daniil was the more aggressive player, hitting 21 winners and ten unforced errors to open a 4-1 gap.
Rafael Nadal served for the victory against Daniil Medvedev at the ATP Finals.
The younger rival won 12 of the opening 13 points and secured a break in game two after the Spaniard's double fault.
Medvedev landed an ace to forge a 4-1 advantage and created a break chance in the next one that could have sent him further ahead. Nadal saved that break chance and pulled the break with a forehand winner in the next one to reduce the deficit.
Rafa held at 15 and delivered another break in game nine, rattling off four straight games and serving for the victory at 5-4. Instead of bringing the encounter home, the Spaniard suffered a costly break at love to keep Medvedev in contention before the Russian secured a tie break 7-4 to force a decider.
A smash winner clinched a break for Daniil at 3-3 to give him momentum, and he cemented the advantage with a solid forehand attack that forced Nadal to serve for staying in the match. Medvedev produced the second consecutive break at 5-3 to seal the deal and advance into the title clash against Dominic Thiem.
"I don't think that I lost energy in the decider. Daniil was better than me in the early stages. I stayed in touch with good serves, raised my level and grabbed a break to close the set. Like in the opener, Danill had the advantage in set number two before I bounced back, playing on a high level before that crucial game ten.
It was a bad game, and I wasted a massive opportunity to bring the victory home. I wish Daniil all the best; he played a great match," Rafael Nadal said.