Rafael Nadal had to skip his first ATP Finals in 2005 due to an injury, making a debut a year later and qualifying for the premium ATP event for 16 consecutive years! Rafa missed six ATP Finals editions due to an injury, and he never claimed the title at the prestigious tournament after struggling to beat the top-10 opponents on his least favorite surface.
Nadal advanced into two ATP Finals title matches in 2010 and 2013, losing them to Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. In his last ATP Finals appearance so far, the Spaniard defeated Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas a year ago to advance into the first semi-final since 2015.
Rafa led 6-3, 5-4 against Daniil Medvedev and served for the victory before the Russian turned the tables and beat the 20-time Major winner 3-6, 7-6, 6-3, preventing him from advancing into the third final. After the match, Rafa said he could not speak about the surface change, reaching the semis and having the opportunity to go even further.
The Spaniard stated he had an opinion but saved it for another discussion. Outside hard and carpet, the ATP Finals saw only one edition on grass in 1974, with no competition held on clay during these five decades. Nadal has been saying for years that he would love to see at least a small surface change and a couple of ATP Finals on the slowest surface.
Still, the ATP has not considered that, keeping the most common surface year after year since 2006. Playing only six tournaments in 2020 before the ATP Finals, Nadal was fresh and ready to chase the crown in London, kicking off the action with a triumph over Andrey Rublev.
After the loss, Rafael Nadal did not want to talk about the ATP Finals surface.
We saw a clash of titans in the second match, with Dominic Thiem prevailing over Nadal in two tie breaks despite chances for the Spaniard in both sets.
In the last round-robin encounter, Rafa defeated Stefanos Ttsitsipas in three sets for the first semi-final berth since 2015, facing Daniil Medvedev in the battle for the final. As we already said, Nadal made a great start and stood close to the finish line, losing ground in the worst moment and allowing the Russian to force a decider and cross the finish line.
The Spaniard failed to qualify for the ATP Finals for the first time since 2004 this year, staying away from the court since August and hoping for a fresh start in Abu Dhabi and Melbourne in the upcoming weeks. "It's not the moment to talk about the ATP Finals surface; I have my personal opinion but also have to accept the current situation.
I reached the semi-final and had my chances to go even further. I did not play well in the moments when I could have closed the match; other things do not matter now," Rafael Nadal said.