Dominic Thiem v Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rematch of last year’s final
Rafael Nadal takes on Andrey Rublev who holds the most titles won this year in the field
LONDON, UK – Day 1 has a blistering start with a rematch of last year’s final between defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem, with Rafael Nadal taking on Andrey Rublev in the night match.
What a difference a year makes. A somewhat sickly Dominic Thiem just ran out of steam against Stefanos Tsitsipas but coming in as the newest Slam champion on the block, he looks a very solid prospect at the start of London’s swansong as the hosts of the Nitto ATP Finals.
Thiem’s year overall has been one leading up to his remarkable victory in New York. He had already proved his challenge to the Big Three was valid with back to back appearances in the final of Roland Garros, and started the year showing that he could also challenge on other surfaces, making the Australian Open final for the first time, and pushing Novak Djokovic to five sets.
Typically, Thiem played everywhere and anywhere during the easing of lockdown and the reintroduction of elite sport, including his own branded tournament. His restart was a first round exit in the New York edition of the Western and Southern Open, but that did not seem to deter him on his way to a hard fought major title, having to come from two sets down to clinch it.
Tsitsipas picked up a win in Marseille and backed that up with a run to the Dubai final and picked up a lot of wins during the Ultimate Tennis Showdown and he restarted the season certainly the brighter of the pair making the Cincinnati semi-final. Rome aside, his clay court season was fair with the final of Hamburg and the semi-final of Roland Garros all contributing to his tally of points to arrive in London to defend his crown.
Thiem only just nudges ahead on terms of indoor hard-court wins with one win more than Tsitsipas. It will be a battle of the aggressive baseliners with potent single-handed backhands and really not a bad way to start the whole final shebang in London.
Tsitsipas will most likely opt to come in more than you would typically expect, and while Thiem has solid volleys in his arsenal, he usually comes in just to finish off his points. He will prefer to build up his points and drag his opponents through long gruelling rallies. If nothing else, we will get a feel for how these courts play in a cold empty stadium.
Prediction: Thiem in three sets.
Rafael Nadal  v Andrey Rublev  | H2H: Nadal leads 1-0
For Rafael Nadal it is another chance to try and add the season-ending finale title to his tally. It is no secret that indoor courts are not his best surface but with this disrupted season seeing players coming in a lot less fatigued than usual, could this be the year he upsets the form book?
He said, in his pre-tournament press conference: “We can find excuses or reasons but, at the end of the day, the numbers are the numbers. I think I played less indoors than on the other surfaces, without a doubt… The indoor surfaces have not been the ideal surfaces for my tennis game since the beginning of my career.
”I think I am able to play a little better in the past couple of years indoors than I did at the beginning of my tennis career, without a doubt, but [these are] the numbers. I can’t say something different. I hope to change that this week.”
He faces the man with the most titles won in the field, Andrey Rublev, making his debut in London. Many have been handed a sharp education on their debut but Rublev felt he was up to the challenge:
He said, ahead of the tournament: “Of course, I am feeling nervous. It is my first time. You are with all the best players here and of course, you feel nervous. This is a normal thing because we are all humans… This is the moment we are playing for and we are working for.”
Rublev has certainly put in the hard yards on the indoor courts, winning back to back titles in Saint Petersburg and Vienna, before bowing out with just one win in Paris. For Nadal thee was only Paris, but reaching the semi-final in the Masters 1000 should serve him well.
Nadal will expect to face a fair bit of firepower from the young Russian who boasts a big forehand and a more dangerous two-handed backhand, but he can be prone to errors.
Nadal’s experience will serve him well, and it will all come down to how this court plays without the heat of a packed audience, especially in the night match.
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