Rafael Nadal‘s struggles at the ATP Finals are a result of the court not being high-bouncing enough to suit his style and Greg Rusedski doesn’t rate the Spaniard’s chances of a maiden O2 triumph this month. The 2020 year-ending tournament begins tomorrow, with Nadal taking on in-form Russian Andrey Rublev in the evening.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion has qualified for the Finals for 16 consecutive years, a record, without ever coming out on top.
Nadal has reached the final twice only to lose to Roger Federer in 2010 and then again to Novak Djokovic in 2013.
The 34-year-old however looked in strong form on the hard indoor courts of the Paris Masters despite having only ever won one of his 86 singles titles in such events back in Madrid in 2005.
But Rusedski believes the way that the court plays at the O2 means Nadal’s rivals Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem – who joins the ‘King of Clay’ in Group London 2020 – are more likely to be victorious than the French Open winner.
Former British No 1 Rusedski told Express Sport: “It’s called indoors tennis at the end of the day! I think you know obviously he would have loved to play outdoors like when I was in Houston a few years back and Federer was playing there.
“I think also if you look at Paris where he lost to Sascha Zverev in the semi-finals, people can serve him off the court. His returns are a little too short at times and his serve needs to be firing so I think it’s a big ask.
“The only positive he has this year is that he’s coming in fresh. If I look on paper, the guys that I would say are the favourites are obviously Djokovic, Medvedev, Zverev and Thiem.
“Those are the guys that have played the best that are coming in. Medvedev got his form by winning Paris, Zverev has been on fire since the US Open and Thiem is fresh coming in having played so well last year, losing that final barely to Tsitsipas.
“I kind of put Nadal out of that equation to win it but you can never really discount Rafa.
“If this would’ve been held outdoors, I don’t think we’d be having this conversation whatsoever.
“I think there’s expectation, he desperately wants to win it. But also the way the surface is played, I played it in Hanover years ago and it was Moya-Corretja in the final and it was a very sticky indoor court, high bouncing, slow ball.
“That would’ve been perfect for Rafa. The way the ball and court is laid in London, it doesn’t come up quite as much.
“He needs a high bouncing slow-ish court that really takes the spin and kicks off. I don’t think they’re changing that court any day soon.
“That’s the only way I think he can win the title. Can he get to the final or the semis? Of course.
“But he’s desperate to win it, he’s won all four majors, he’s won 13 French Opens, you can never discount him but in my opinion it’s going to be a big ask for him to win this coming year.”
Similarly, Serena Williams, Coco Gauff and Stefanos Tsitsipas’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou has also spoken out about the struggles Nadal encounters at the Finals and insists the way the court is laid at The O2 does not favour the 34-year-old.
Mouratoglou told Eye of the Coach: “What makes him so different and so difficult to beat on other surfaces, he doesn’t have that advantage indoors on hard courts because the bounce is low.
“There is a reason why on hardcourts indoors, the bounce is lower than on hardcourts outdoors. The surface is named hard courts in both cases, but it’s not the same surface at all.
“It’s usually a place where you do concerts, and some other sports, and tennis. In general, the surface is wood, and over the wood, they put a kind of carpet, which is also a synthetic resin.
“There is a space between the two. And because there is space, the bounce is much lower.
“Nadal is a very good competitor now indoor on hard but there are guys who are still better than him on that surface.”
The Nitto ATP Finals will be available to watch on Amazon Prime Video on Sunday 15th to Sunday 22nd November.
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