Although the season-ending finale has not been a happy hunting ground for Rafael Nadal, he handed down debutant Andrey Rublev a handy lesson in their opening match. Rublev, who came into this match with the most title wins of the eight finalists.
Rublev’s first serve had deserted him in the first set, and although in the first few games he had managed to hold his nerve, he buckled at the first opportunities that came Nadal’s way. The frustration was building for the Russian who made sure his racquet took the brunt.
The second set started badly for Rublev who failed to fend off a third break point in his opening game as Nadal took an early lead. His first serve at least made enough of a return for him to get on the board.
However it was just a little too late to help Rublev try and get a foot hold in the match, with Nadal coasting into the next round without having faced a break point.
While Rublev has had a great season in terms of titles, he admitted that his lack of experience of playing against big players might have let him down.
After the match, he said: “I don’t really play with top players, so all the other players they play much more with top players. I play only three times against top three players. I don’t really have much experience, so is more I will play against them is better, I think I will perform every time.”
Nadal will be happy with the quick start, when the sets won and games won become more important towards the end of the group stages.
“It’s a positive start, but I have to play against Dominic and then Stefanos, so two of the toughest opponents that you can face, no?
“So, it’s important to start well, of course, for the confidence, because winning straight sets helps. And of course, the serve tonight have been very important, no? I played solid with my serve. I didn’t suffer much, and that helps to play more relaxed on the returns.”
Nadal and Rublev will play their next matches on Tuesday.
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