Rafael Nadal: 'It's important for confidence to win in straight sets, especially..'

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Rafael Nadal: 'It's important for confidence to win in straight sets, especially..'

Unlike in 2019, Rafael Nadal has made a strong start at the ATP Finals. Competing at only the fourth ATP event since the season restart, Rafa came to London at 100%, hoping to lift the first trophy at this event. In the first round-robin clash, the Spaniard defeated Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 17 minutes, bouncing back after the semi-final Paris loss to Alexander Zverev.

It was their first clash since the US Open 2017, and world no. 2 had the strings in his hands, dropping 12 points in ten service games and never facing a break point. Returning Rublev's serves with aggression, Rafa grabbed one break in each set to notch the victory and attach 200 points to his tally.

Nadal had 16 winners and 11 unforced errors, leaving the Russian on 19 winners and 23 mistakes, too many if he wanted to challenge the better-ranked opponent. Hitting a service winner in almost 40% of all the points behind the initial shot, Rafa forged a massive 44-28 advantage in the shortest rallies up to four strokes, receiving the second serve from inside the court and securing those two breaks to sprint over the finish line.

Both players served well in the opening four games, and it was a start that we could expect from these two. A forehand down the line winner secured another comfortable hold for the Spaniard at 2-2, staying in the next game on the return and gaining a break when the Russian sprayed a forehand error to move 4-2 ahead.

Rafael Nadal defeated Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4 in 77 minutes. A service winner sent Rafa 5-2 in front, serving for the set at 5-3. World no. 2 hit three winners to close the opener in 36 minutes, hoping for more of the same in set number two.

With momentum on his side, Nadal grabbed a break in the first game of the second set, holding after deuce with a service winner to forge a 6-3, 2-0 advantage. A service winner sent Nadal 4-2 up before Rublev held at love to reduce the deficit and extend his chances.

The Spaniard forced an error from his opponent in game eight, forcing Rublev to serve for staying in the match. The youngster held after a deuce before Nadal brought the tenth game home at 15 with an unreturned serve to seal the deal and make a winning start ahead of Dominic Thiem clash.

"It feels like a positive start when you win in straight sets. It's important for confidence, especially if you serve like I did tonight. I played against someone who has had a great season, and I wish Andrey the best in the future.

He made more mistakes than usual, so it wasn't a perfect match. Still, there are no easy rivals at the ATP Finals, and every of those brings maximum pressure," Rafael Nadal said.