Rafael Nadal made another comeback to continue in the race for a place in the semifinals of the ATP Masters Cup.
The world’s number one relies on the help of Daniil Medvedev to avoid an untimely goodbye to London.
Nadal had to come from behind to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-5, who had qualified beforehand. It was the Spaniard’s second victory in the season-ending tournament. But it would not be enough if Alexander Zverev defeats Medvedev in the final match of the group stage.
That would leave Zverev, Nadal and Tsitsipas with identical 2-1 records. But Nadal would be third in the group, according to the tiebreaker criteria of the tournament.
Nadal’s victory decreed the elimination of Medvedev, so the Russian (0-2) will come out to play out of pure pride against Zverev.
On Wednesday, Nadal lost his debut to Zverev and lifted a match point 5-1 in the third set against Medvedev and then turned it around.
The comeback against Tsitsipas did not reach the same dramatic edges. Nadal did not face a single break ball in the duel, but lost the last three points of the first-set tiebreaker for the Greek to take the lead.
But he broke to go up 5-3 in the second set and again to 6-5 in the third. The Spaniard capitalized on his first match ball when Tsitsipas landed a forehand at the net.
Whatever happens, Nadal has claimed to leave London as number one at the end of the year. That place was guaranteed when Djokovic lost in the group stage on Thursday by losing to Roger Federer.
This is the 15th time that the champion of 19 Grand Slam tournaments closed the year at the top of the ranking, tied for second place in the all-time table with Djokovic, Federer and Jimmy Connors. Pete Sampras did it six times.
At 33, Nadal is the oldest player to finish the year as number one.
However, he has never been a champion of the Masters Cup despite qualifying for it in 15 successive years. He had to withdraw from the tournament six times due to injuries and reached the final twice, the last one in 2013. AP