Andrey Rublev has had a breakthrough season in 2020, winning the Tour-leading five ATP titles and scoring 40 ATP wins. The Russian cracked the top-10 and secured a spot at the ATP Finals for the first time, winning three ATP 500 titles after the season restart and reaching two Major quarter-finals.
In his opening match in London, Andrey suffered a 6-3, 6-4 loss to Rafael Nadal in an hour and 17 minutes. It was Andrey's third meeting against the rivals like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, still lacking experience and confidence against the top opponents.
The Spaniard had the upper hand, dropping 12 points in ten service games and never facing a break point. Returning Rublev's serves with aggression, Rafa grabbed a break in each set to claim the victory, the 19th at this event.
Nadal hit 16 winners and 11 unforced errors, leaving 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 take world no. 2 away from the comfort zone.
Nadal had a big 44-28 advantage in the quickest rallies up to four strokes, staying aggressive and returning Rublev's second serves from inside the court.
Andrey Rublev couldn't match Rafael Nadal's pace at the ATP Finals.
The encounter kicked off with five commanding holds on both sides before Rafa moved 4-2 up when the Russian sprayed a forehand error.
A service winner sent Nadal 5-2 in front, hitting three winners in game nine to close the opener in 36 minutes. The Spaniard clinched a break in the second set's first game, holding after deuce with a service winner to move closer to the finish line.
A service winner pushed Nadal 4-2 up before bringing the tenth game home at 15 to cross the finish line and make a strong start in London. "I had some chances on the return against Rafa, although I should have created more.
Also, I was nervous and my serve didn't work well. When Rafa broke me in set number two, I was more relaxed and started to serve better. It was a different match from that moment, but it was too late for a change. I didn't think about Rafa being my idol.
I don't have enough encounters against the rivals from the top; I only placed Roger Federer once and Rafael Nadal twice. Three matches are not enough to give me experience, and I should play better against them in the following clashes.
I was mentally and physically exhausted in Paris, but I came fresh to London. Rafa has more experience than me, winning many Major and Masters 1000 titles. Unlike him, I have to work hard from the opening match to deserve my place in the latter stages and compete in more tournaments. I didn't know will I reach London, and I had to play week after week," Andrey Rublev said.