Last year, Rafael Nadal reached his first semi-final at the ATP Finals in London since 2015. Rafa played well against Daniil Medvedev and forged a 6-3, 5-4 lead, serving for the victory in game ten. Instead of moving forward, Nadal lost serve in the crucial moment to keep the opponent alive and experienced a tough 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 loss.
Rafa lost another tight clash against Dominic Thiem in the round-robin stage, falling 7-6, 7-6 despite having chances in both sets. Nadal's coach Carlos Moya said it was a shame that Nadal could not fight for London's title, losing the crucial points against Thiem and Medvedev, which does not often happen in his encounters.
Rafael Nadal lost tight encounters against Thiem and Medvedev in London.
The Austrian grabbed his sixth victory over the Spaniard following a thrilling 7-6, 7-6 triumph in two hours and 25 minutes. Like in Melbourne in January, Thiem won the decisive points against Nadal, fending off two set points in the opener and erasing a break deficit in the second to prevail in straight sets and become the seventh player with six triumphs over the 20-time Major champion.
There were only two breaks of serves in games seven and eight of set number two, with two rivals staying neck and neck and producing excellent tennis that was well-worth the title clash. Nadal toppled Tsitsipas in the last round-robin match to advance into the final four and had everything under control against Medvedev before falling in three sets.
"The ATP Finals was a pity, as I think Rafa had chances of reaching the final and battling for the title. Those tense moments usually work in his favor, but that was not the case against Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem.
Things are developing quickly on such a fast court as London, and two or three key moments will decide the winner among the top-ranked rivals. You have to stay focused and grab those crucial points, as they are likely to determine who takes the victory home.
Usually, Rafa solves this type of situation in his favor, but we have to praise Thiem and Medvedev, who both played on a high level when it mattered the most. They won the crucial points against Rafa and came as deserved winners," Carlos Moya said.