Competing as a father for the first time, Rafael Nadal hit the exit door at the Paris Masters. World no. 2 fell to Tommy Paul 3-6, 7-6, 6-1 in two hours and 32 minutes, squandering a set and a break lead and not looking good in the decider.
It was Rafa's first match in almost two months, struggling with an abdominal injury since Wimbledon and losing form. Not thinking about becoming world no. 1 again, Nadal came to Paris a week ago and sought a good result after an extended break.
Despite a solid start, the Spaniard failed to seal the deal in straight sets and had nothing left in the tank in the decider. Despite another setback, Rafa is determined to travel to Turin and seek his first ATP Finals trophy, having nothing to lose after a great season.
Nadal will struggle to fight for victories in Turin if he repeats the performance from the third set against Paul. He looked very tired and slow, losing pace on his serve and movement and allowing the rival to break him three times.
Rafael Nadal will try his best at the ATP Finals in Turin.
Paul served at 57% but experienced three breaks to find himself in a challenging position. The American turned 42% of the return points into five breaks that carried him over the finish line and into the last 16.
Tommy had 29 winners and 27 unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely and attacking the net. He took advantage of Rafa's 35 unforced errors and forced a decider, where it was all about him. Paul played great at the net and built the lead in the shortest range up to four strokes, thanks to his aggressive approach.
Settling into a nice rhythm after pulling the break back, Tommy claimed the second set's tie break 7-4 after forcing Rafa's error. Nadal netted a routine forehand to lose serve at the start of the final set and missed his opportunity in the fourth game.
The Spaniard sprayed a volley error in game five to lose serve, playing with no energy or momentum. Paul delivered his third break of the set at 5-1 and emerged at the top with a volley winner for a career-best victory. "I'm excited about playing in Turin, even though the last couple of months have not been perfect. I will go to Turin after a good year; I have nothing to lose and will try my best," Rafael Nadal said.