The 51st edition of the ATP Finals kicks off on Sunday in London's O2 Arena. Group London 2020 will open the action, with Stefanos Tsitsipas facing Dominic Thiem in the first singles match, in the last year's title match repeat.
In the evening session, world no. 2 Rafael Nadal begins the campaign against an in-form Russian Andrey Rublev, facing the Russian for the second time. At the US Open quarter-final three years ago, the youngster barely won a couple of games against the eventual champion, staying on the court for an hour and 34 minutes.
Things are much different now, though, with Rublev cracking the top-10 following a stellar run in 2020. Andrey is the season's leader with 40 ATP victories and five titles, playing on a high level in the opening weeks and again since August.
In the last two and a half months, the Moscow native has won three ATP 500 titles and played in two Major quarter-finals, securing a place in the top-10 and punching his first ATP Finals ticket. Ready to show his best tennis at the premium ATP event, Rublev feels he has nothing to lose against Rafa, calling him one of the best players in history and shifting the pressure to Nadal's side of the court.
Following the quarter-final loss at Roland Garros, Rublev embraced an indoor swing and lifted the trophies in St. Petersburg and Vienna, running out of gas in Paris but doing enough to qualify for the elite-eight event. Nadal will try to reach the semi-final in London for the first time since 2015, securing the ATP Finals' 16th consecutive appearance.
Rafael Nadal and Andrey Rublev will face each other on Sunday night in London.
With numerous injuries, Rafa had to skip plenty of those in Shanghai and London, never winning this tournament and losing two finals in 2010 and 2013 to Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
A year ago, Rafa lost the opening match to Alexander Zverev before scoring two tight wins over Daniil Medvedev (came from 5-1 down in the decider) and Stefanos Tsitsipas, earning 400 points but staying away from the semi-final.
In his only indoor event of the season, Nadal secured the 1000th ATP victory in the second round in Paris against Feliciano Lopez, beating Jordan Thompson and Pablo Carreno Busta to find himself in the semis. Still, the Spaniard didn't play well on the return in those matches, scoring triumphs but losing to Zverev 6-4, 7-5 in the battle for the final.
"Rafa is one of the best players in history; the pressure will be on him. All the matches are challenging, with the best players competing in London. I'm looking forward to the tournament," Andrey Rublev said.