Rafael Nadal after a tough loss: ‘I wish my rival all the best’

Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev played two thrilling matches at the ATP Finals in 2019 and 2020. In the first, Nadal trailed 5-1 in the final set and fended off a match point in an impressive comeback. A year later, the Spaniard led 6-3, 6-4 against the Russian in the semi-final before failing to serve out for the victory and experiencing a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 defeat in two hours and 35 minutes. Instead of sealing the deal, Rafa got broken in that second set’s tenth game, lost the tie break and allowed Daniil to rattle off four straight games in the decider and advance into the title match. After the match, Nadal said he did not lose energy in the final set. He praised his opponent, who played better than him when it mattered the most and wished the Russian all the best in the future. Daniil fired 42 winners and 29 unforced errors, leaving Rafa on a 22-30 ratio.

The Russian forged the advantage in the most advanced rallies and saved his best tennis for the last four games to remain on the title course. Nadal held at 30 at the beginning of the encounter after forcing Medvedev’s backhand error. He had to dig deep in the third game before fending off three break chances. Daniil secured the fourth game with a service winner and locked the result for the third time in game six, doing his best to remain in touch with the Spaniard from the baseline. Medvedev lost ground at 3-4 and sprayed a forehand error to suffer a break at love, allowing Rafa to take the set 6-3 on his serve. Daniil was the more aggressive player in set number two, hitting 21 winners and ten unforced errors to open a 4-1 gap.

Rafael Nadal served for the victory against Daniil Medvedev at the 2020 ATP Finals.

The younger rival won 12 of the opening 13 points and secured a break in game two after the Spaniard’s double fault. Medvedev landed an ace to forge a 4-1 advantage and created a break chance in the next one that could have sent him further ahead. Nadal saved it and pulled the break back with a forehand winner in the next one to reduce the deficit. Rafa held at 15 and delivered another break in game nine, rattling off four straight games and serving for the victory at 5-4. Instead of bringing the encounter home in an hour and a half, the Spaniard suffered a costly break at love to keep Medvedev in contention. The Russian gained a boost and secured a tie break 7-4 to force a decider. A smash winner clinched a break for Daniil at 3-3 to give him momentum, and he cemented the advantage with a solid forehand attack a few minutes later. Medvedev produced the second break at 5-3 to break Nadal’s resistance and seal the deal. 

“I don’t think that I lost energy in the decider. Daniil was better than me in the early stages. I stayed in touch with good serves, raised my level and grabbed a break to close the set. Like the opener, Danill had the advantage in set number two before I bounced back, playing on a high level before that crucial game ten. It was a bad game, and I wasted a massive opportunity to bring the victory home. I wish Daniil all the best; he played a great match,” Rafael Nadal said.