Andrey Rublev left the injuries behind him in 2020 and fulfilled the potential that made him a top-10 player. Rublev claimed the Tour-leading five ATP titles in the reduced season to secure a place at the ATP Finals in London for the first time.
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. The Russian experienced a 6-3, 6-4 loss in an hour and 17 minutes after failing to shake off the pressure.
Rublev admitted he had to deal with massive stress against his idol. He wanted to show his best tennis on the big stage but got overwhelmed by the occasion and the rival across the net. 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 aggressively, 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 failed to return almost 40% of Rafa's serves, spraying too many errors and failing to move the rival from the comfort zone.
Nadal had a significant 44-28 advantage in the quickest rallies up to four strokes. He remained aggressive and returned Rublev's second serves from inside the court to gain the advantage. The encounter kicked off with five commanding holds before Rafa moved 4-2 up after Andrey's forehand error.
A service winner sent Nadal 5-2 in front, and he produced 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.
The Spaniard maintained his level and grabbed a break in the second set's first game for a massive lead.
Rafa held after deuce in game two with a service winner to move closer to the finish line. A service winner pushed Nadal 4-2 up, and he served for the victory at 5-4. Rafa grabbed the tenth game home at 15 to cross the finish line and make a strong start in London.
"One victory was not enough to advance at the ATP Finals. If I had won that match against Tsitsipas, I might have made it to the semis. No one knows how things would have developed. Understandably, it looks like there was no chance.
In the match against Nadal, I could not deal with the pressure. I knew 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.