The young Russian Andrey Rublev had a breakthrough season in 2020, winning the Tour-leading five ATP titles and scoring 41 ATP wins. The Moscow native cracked the top-10 and secured the ATP Finals debut, winning three ATP 500 titles after the season restart and reaching back-to-back Major quarter-finals!
Eager to show his best tennis, Andrey played his first London match against the 20-time Major champion Rafael Nadal, suffering a 6-3, 6-4 loss in an hour and 17 minutes. In the recent interview, Rublev admitted he had to deal with massive pressure against his idol, wanting to show his best tennis on the big stage but getting overwhelmed.
The Russian was hoping for another strong indoor run after St. Petersburg and Vienna, but he couldn't find his A-game, especially on the return. 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 single 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 impose his strokes and force the rival to move from the comfort zone. Nadal had a significant 44-28 advantage in the quickest rallies up to four strokes, staying aggressive and returning Rublev's second serves from inside the court to gain the advantage.
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.
Andrey Rublev lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets at the ATP Finals.
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 he brought the tenth game home at 15 to cross the finish line and make a strong start in London.
Rublev would waste a match point in the second match versus Stefanos Tsitsipas, beating Dominic Thiem in the final round-robin match for his first win at the premium ATP event. "One victory wasn't enough to advance at the ATP Finals.
If I had won that match against Tsitsipas, then maybe I would have made it to the semis. No one knows how things would have developed then. Understandably, it looks like there was no chance. In the match against Nadal, I couldn't deal with the pressure.
I was aware that I was having a good season and had the right level of play. I wanted to show that I'm ready to fight with players like Nadal. I got overwhelmed as the stress became too strong. That's the case when you want something badly," Andrey Rublev said.