Tim Henman: 'Rafael Nadal is 100% physically, which wasn't always the case in London'

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Tim Henman: 'Rafael Nadal is 100% physically, which wasn't always the case in London'

Like never before, Rafael Nadal has played only six tournaments before the premium ATP Finals event, saving energy and setting eyes on the title hie is missing! Nadal has qualified for the ATP Finals for the 16th straight season, competing at this tournament only for the tenth time after struggling with numerous post-US Open injuries over the years.

Never being a fan of indoor tennis, Rafa has won only one indoor hard ATP crown, 15 years ago at home in Madrid. The Spaniard lost two ATP Finals title matches to Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in 2010 and 2013, never reaching the semi-final after 2015 and trying to change that this week.

Tim Henman believes that Rafa has a shot in London, heading to the British capital well-rested and eager to show his best tennis in the last event of the season. On the opening night, Rafa toppled an in-form Russian and a debutant Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 17 minutes, bouncing back following the Paris loss to Alexander Zverev and kicking off the action with a win.

Rafa played on a high level, losing 12 points in ten service games and never facing a break point. Returning Rublev's serves with aggression and from inside the court, the 20-time Major winner broke the opponent once in each set to notch the victory and add 200 points to his tally.

Dominating with his initial shot, Nadal had 16 winners and 11 unforced errors, leaving the Russian on 19 winners and 23 mistakes. Hitting a service winner in almost 40% of all the points in his games, Rafa built an extensive 44-28 advantage in the shortest rallies up to four strokes.

Nadal made a good start with a service winner before Rublev responded in the same style to get his name on the scoreboard. The Spaniard held at love at 1-1 with another unreturned serve, followed by an ace from Andrey, who leveled the score at 2-2.

A forehand down the line winner secured another comfortable hold for the Spaniard in game five, claiming the first break when the Russian sprayed a forehand error a few minutes later to open a 4-2 gap.

Rafael Nadal made a winning start in London over Andrey Rublev.

World no.

2 hit three winners in game nine to close the opener in 36 minutes, playing well and 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 open a 6-3, 2-0 lead.

Andrey sprayed a forehand error in game four to find himself 3-1 down, holding with a forehand winner in game five to remain in touch. A service winner sent Nadal 4-2 up before Rublev brought the seventh game home to extend the battle.

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 held at 15 with an unreturned serve to seal the deal and score an opening victory.

Nadal will face the US Open champion Dominic Thiem in the second round-robin clash, with Andrey Rublev facing Stefanos Tsitsipas. "I think the reduced schedule has helped Rafa. He hadn't always played the ATP Finals, as his body was a bit beaten up.

But it feels like this year could be a bit different. He hasn't played so much tennis, but there's the confidence from that 13th Roland Garros title and 20th Major. Plus, he's played well indoors and won big titles.

He's been in the final of this event on two occasions, and he is more than capable of playing well," Tim Henman said.