Rafael Nadal said he was slow and rusty as he suffered a disastrous start to his bid to win his first ATP Finals after stumbling 7-6 (7/3), 6-1 against Taylor Fritz on Sunday.
“It’s about time,” said the 36-year-old. “I have less time than him to do what I want to do on the ball. I felt like everything was going so fast.”
The year-end finals are the only major trophy missing from tennis superstar Nadal’s honor roll, but his loss in straight sets means he will struggle to escape the quarter-final stage.
He may need to win both of his remaining matches against Green Group opponents Casper Roud and Felix Auger-Aliassime if he is to reach the semi-finals.
Nadal, who has not played on the tour since the US Open in September, said he was struggling to rediscover his best form after recent injuries.
“I usually try to come back in fewer events,” Nadal said. “Usually you don’t need to play at the top to win two matches. Then if you achieve that, when you’re up against the best players, you’re more prepared.”
Nadal said he struggled with Fritz’s aggression and surface pace.
“For most of the match points, I was on the defensive and he was on the offensive. That’s what happened. That was something that was hard for me to avoid because you need to be faster on your legs, faster on your mind.”
“This is what happens when you come back,” he said.
“On this kind of surface, you have to play very well. You don’t have time to think.”
Fritz, appearing in the finals for the first time in his career after replacing an injured world number one Carlos Alcaraz, gave Nadal a tough time with some aggressive tennis.
“I did a good job, protecting my serve, holding my serve and doing a very good job in the tie-break,” said Fritz on the court.
“Once I got over that, I just wanted to do the same thing I was doing in the second set, to protect my serve and take advantage of my break points when I got them.”
Nadal said he outplayed him in the second set.
“In the end, Fritz played very well. I couldn’t handle his power,” said Nadal.
“Progress like Fritz, you’re under pressure all the time,” said Nadal.
“When someone serves that way, on the return, he goes on every shot. Just played well of it.”
Ruud was also a straight sets winner over Auger Alessime, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, in the other singles competition today. The Norwegian sits behind Fritz in the standings with the top two from each group advancing to the semi-finals.
The world number four came through an uninspired encounter in an hour and 51 minutes after getting his only chance to break Canadian Auger-Aliassime in the seventh match of the second set.
Then this season’s US Open runner-up Roland Garros served the rest of the group to claim victory.
Read all files The latest sports news over here