Injury hampers Rafael Nadal as he loses to defending ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev

Simon Briggs
Rafael Nadal cut a frustrated figure as an abdominal injury clearly restricted his play during defeat to Alexander Zverev - REUTERS
Rafael Nadal cut a frustrated figure as an abdominal injury clearly restricted his play during defeat to Alexander Zverev - REUTERS

Rafael Nadal looked crestfallen at his inability to compete seriously with Alexander Zverev, the defending ATP Finals champion, who completed a comprehensive 6-2, 6-4 victory without even allowing Nadal a single break point.

Nadal had arrived in London with a shadow hanging over his prospects, thanks to the abdominal injury that forced him to withdraw from the Paris Masters ten days ago. He has barely been able to serve in the build-up. And this may explain why he won just 55 per cent of the points on his own serve on Monday, while his strokeplay off the ground also lacked its usual bite.

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But what upset Nadal more than anything, he said, was a shortage of his usual never-say-die attitude. “We knew that it was going to be tough at beginning,” he explained, sometimes looking emotional at his own frustrations. “Because the period of time since the injury is very short, but we are here trying.

“I am disappointed, because knowing that I will not be at my 100 per cent in terms of feelings, in terms of movement, in terms of confidence or hitting the ball, I needed my best competitive spirit this afternoon, and I was not there in that way.”

It was tricky, in the circumstances, to judge the level of Zverev’s performance. Nadal didn’t have the sharpness to pressurise him as we might have normally expected. But there were still signs that Zverev has found his most positive frame of mind.

<span>Defending champion Alexander Zverev triumphed in straight sets</span> <span>Credit: GETTY IMAGES </span>
Defending champion Alexander Zverev triumphed in straight sets Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Playing as a frontrunner from the fifth game – when he claimed the first of his three breaks of serve – Zverev put on a firework display of ferocious winners, settling back onto the court where he beat Novak Djokovic in last year’s final. Add in a semi-final win over Roger Federer, and he has just beaten the Big Three in successive matches at the O2 Arena, all without dropping a set.

One of the more startling statistics of the evening was the 147mph that Zverev clocked on the service speed gun. Admittedly, the device has been reading high all tournament, but this was well out in front of the 140mph that Matteo Berrettini had notched in the opening match. There was even a second-serve ace, from a man who had been leaking double-faults earlier in the year.

“Everyone knows how much I struggled all season,” said Zverev in his on-court interview. “But just being out here and in this stadium is something I wanted to do, after winning my biggest title here last year.

“My fast serving?” he added. “Carrots and spinach, whatever mum was giving me.”

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