Heading to London rested, and with no injuries to bother him, Rafael Nadal set eyes on the most notable trophy he was missing in November last year. The Spaniard advanced into the first ATP Finals semi-final since 2015, playing well and seeking a place in the first final in seven years.
Rafa had a massive chance to reach the title clash, leading 6-3, 5-4 against Daniil Medvedev and serving for the victory. Instead of sealing the deal behind his initial shot, Nadal got broken in that tenth game and lost momentum to find himself 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 down after two hours and 35 minutes.
In his post-match interview, Nadal denied it was the pressure that cost him the victory in that crucial game, saying he had accomplished enough over the previous 15 years not to feel it. Daniil had 42 winners and 29 unforced errors, leaving Rafa on a 22-30 ratio.
The Russian secured the advantage in the most advanced rallies and saved his best tennis for the last four games to seal the deal and set Dominic Thiem clash. The Spaniard fended off three break chances in the opener's third game and brought it home with a service winner to avoid an early setback.
The younger player did his best to remain in touch with Rafa from the baseline, but he lost ground at 3-4, sending a forehand long to suffer a break at love and allowing Rafa to seal the set on his serve for 6-3. Medvedev won 12 of the second set's opening 13 points and secured a break in game two after the Spaniard's double fault.
Daniil landed an ace to open a 4-1 advantage and created another break chance in the next one. Nadal saved it to reduce the deficit and pulled the break back with a forehand winner to trail 4-3.
Rafael Nadal served for the victory against Daniil Medvedev in London last year.
Rafa held at 15 and scored another break in game nine, looking good to seal the deal at 5-4.
Instead of bringing the encounter home, the Spaniard suffered a costly break at love to keep Medvedev in contention and lose ground. The Russian grabbed the tie break 7-4 after forcing Nadal's error and brought the decider after an hour and 47 minutes.
A smash winner clinched a break for Daniil at 3-3, and he cemented the advantage with a solid forehand attack. Medvedev grabbed another break in game nine to move over the top and advance into the title clash against Dominic Thiem.
"I do not think there was any pressure; I have achieved enough not to find any excuse about those challenging moments. I won some matches and tournaments from even more difficult situations than the one against Daniil, and I do not feel that was the case.
I was nervous while serving for the match, and it's normal to feel the tension. Daniil played a couple of good points, and I made a couple of mistakes. He played better in the tie break to bring a decider, where I should have won the game when I got broken after missing that easy volley. Small details made a big difference, and I want to say well done to him," Rafael Nadal said.