Beating Rafael Nadal is never easy, especially when he finds the rhythm in the opening games. Andrey Rublev had a chance to experience that in their 2020 ATP Finals clash, losing 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 17 minutes. The Russian had a breakout run that year, winning all five of the tour-leading ATP titles and scoring 41 wins in a shortened season.
The Moscow native cracked the top 10 and secured his ATP Finals debut thanks to three straight ATP 500 titles after the season restart and back-to-back Major quarterfinals in New York and Paris! Eager to showcase his best tennis on the big stage, Andrey played his first ATP Finals match against 20-time Major champion Rafael Nadal and suffered a 6-3, 6-4 loss in less than 80 minutes.
Rublev admitted that he dealt with massive pressure against his idol, eager to show his best tennis but unable to hide the emotions and turn them into more reliable tennis. The Russian felt he was at the desired level against Rafa, fighting in all segments, especially in the second leg.
Nadal had the upper hand from start to finish, dropping 12 points in ten service games and never struggling. Returning Andrey's services aggressively, Rafa took just one break in each set to claim victory number 19 at the ATP Finals and start the campaign strong.
The more experienced player hit 16 game winners and 11 unforced errors, leaving the Russian with 19 game winners and 23 errors. Rublev knew that he had to control his emotions to stand a chance against Rafael Nadal. Andrey failed to return almost 40% of Rafa's serves and sprinkled too many errors in attempts to impose his shots and take the opponent out of the comfort zone.
Craig Tiley comments on Rafa Nadal
Speaking on an episode of The AO Show podcast, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley likened Rafael Nadal to Hercules. "I mean he’s Hercules! There’s just nothing else you can say about him, and I think he even surprises his own team.
He will go down as one of if not the greatest of the game and he’s still got more to come," Tiley said during the chat. The 36-year-old defeated Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively, before dominating an in-form Casper Ruud in the final.
"So for him to do that and get through that draw, to win it and win it as convincingly as he did in the finals, is honestly remarkable," Tiley said. "Well interestingly while talking to Rafa’s team over the last couple of days, they’re just as surprised as the rest of us are, because never did Rafa himself think that," said Tiley.