Andrey Rublev left the injuries behind him in 2020 and fulfilled his potential that carried him into the top-10. Rublev claimed the Tour-leading five ATP titles in the reduced season to secure a place at the ATP Finals in London, making his debut at the premium ATP event.
Eager to continue where he left after three ATP 500 titles and two Major quarter-finals, Andrey played his first London match against the 20-time Major champion Rafael Nadal and experienced a 6-3, 6-4 loss in an hour and 17 minutes.
Rublev admitted he had to deal with massive pressure against his idol, desiring to show his best tennis on the big stage but getting overwhelmed by the occasion and the rival across the net. The Russian wished for another strong indoor run after St.
Petersburg and Vienna, but he could not find his A-game, especially on the return. The more experienced Spaniard had the upper hand, dropping 12 points in ten service games and never facing problems behind the initial shot.
Returning Andrey's serves with aggression, Rafa grabbed a single break in each set to claim the 19th ATP Finals victory. Nadal hit 16 winners and 11 unforced errors and left the Russian on 19 winners and 23 mistakes. Andrey could not return almost 40% of Rafa's serves, spraying too many errors and failing to impose his strokes or move the rival from the comfort zone.
Nadal had a significant 44-28 advantage in the quickest rallies up to four strokes, staying aggressive and returning Rublev's second serves from inside the court to gain the advantage. The encounter kicked off with five commanding holds on both sides before Rafa moved 4-2 up after Andrey's forehand error.
A service winner sent Nadal 5-2 in front before hitting three winners in game nine to close the opener in 36 minutes.
Andrey Rublev lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets at the ATP Finals.
Still pushing strong, the Spaniard grabbed a break in the second set's first game and held after deuce with a service winner to move closer to the finish line.
A service winner pushed Nadal 4-2 up before bringing the tenth game home at 15 to cross the finish line and make a strong start in London. Rublev would waste a match point in the second encounter versus Stefanos Tsitsipas before beating Dominic Thiem in the last round-robin match for his first win at the premium ATP event.
"One victory was not enough to advance at the ATP Finals. If I had won that match against Tsitsipas, then maybe I would have made it to the semis. No one knows how things would have developed then. Understandably, it looks like there was no chance.
In the match against Nadal, I could not deal with the pressure. I was aware that I was having a good season and had the right level of play. I wanted to show that I was ready to fight with players like Nadal. I got overwhelmed as the stress became too strong. That's the case when you want something badly," Andrey Rublev said.