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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday November 15, 2020

Rafael Nadal is up and running at the ATP Finals–in style.

The Spaniard, making his tenth career appearance at the event, cruised past Andrey Rublev 6-3 6-4 in 78 minutes to move to the top of his group in London.

Tennis Express

It was a stellar start for Nadal, who his seeking his first title at the ATP’s prestigious year-end championships. He never faced a break point and took advantage of some nerves on the part of Rublev, who is one of two debutants at this year’s event along with Diego Schwartzman.

Nadal broke once in each set – for 4-2 in the opening set and in the first game of the second set – and made them stand up as he improved to 19-14 lifetime at the ATP Finals.

The 34-year-old Spaniard was particularly pleased with how well he served.

“The serve tonight have been very important, no?” Nadal said. “I played solid with my serve. I didn't suffer much, and that helps to play more relaxed on the returns. That's what I did, no?”

Nadal dropped just 12 service points and connected on 72 percent of his first serves. His precision with the shot enabled him to put his forehand in play to great effect. Nadal hit 12 forehand winners, and 16 winners overall, against just 11 unforced errors.

“Happy the way I approached the match,” Nadal said. “Always first match is difficult, and Andrey played an amazing season. He's a great guy, too, so I wish him all the very best.”

Rublev admitted that he felt the pressure of facing Nadal. He said that once he got his nervousness under control he was able to start controlling the play on serve, but it came too late for the 23-year-old.

“In general I was serving not good at all, because I was a little bit nervous, which is normal,” he said. “And then when he broke me in the second set I relax and I start to serve much better. Then was different game, but it was too late.”

The Russian is the ATP’s win leader with 40 and the ATP’s title leader with 5, but he admits that he is lacking experience when it comes to facing a player of Nadal’s caliber.

“I would say it's more I don't really play with top players, so all the other players they play much more with top players, and me, I play only, now it's going my second time against Rafa and one more time I play against Roger [Federer],” he said. “So I play only three times against top three players. So I don't really have much experience, so the more I will play against them is better, I think I will [improve] every time.”

Nadal and Rublev are in the London 2020 group along with Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem. Nadal gets Thiem in his next match on Tuesday, and he’s hoping he can build on the momentum he created on Sunday at the 02 Arena.

“So for me gonna be a tough one,” Nadal said. “Hopefully for him, too. I'm gonna try to be ready for it. Going to be a big challenge, but I really hope the victory of today help me for that match. And tomorrow I have a day off to practice, to keep working the way that I need, and I hope to be ready for it.”


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