Thiem and Nadal register wins in their first round-robin matches at the 2020 ATP Finals in London. This will be the last year that the prestigious year-end event will be held at the O2 arena in London. Nadal reached the finals twice but never won the event so far.
Thiem avenged his loss, in the 2019 ATP Finals, to Tsitsipas
Dominic Thiem delivered 37 winners to avenge the 2019 loss to Tsitsipas with a 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 win in an empty arena in London. The O2 arena seats about 17,000 and goes fully booked with rambunctious fans of marquee ATP players. And, the atmosphere is especially electric for matches involving the Maestro. The arena, this year, lacks any trace of noise except the hum of the air-conditioning.
Thiem was particularly irked by the silence of the indoor event. “If you have a huge win like today and you get the atmosphere from 17,000 people, it brings so much positive energy,” he said. “All of this is missing.
“All the time you are having to push yourself, to give yourself energy,” He added. “That’s exhausting. And as well, if you have a long day and then you go in a great city like London or like New York, the city as well gives you nice energy, nice restaurants, hanging out with the people you love. All of this is gone right now.”
Thiem even commented on the dull, albeit safe, experience of the event marred by the COVID pandemic. “We have to be driven here,” said Dominic. “The whole first or second floor is for us players, so we cannot come into contact with people who are not related to tennis. That makes it a very safe environment. But it’s pretty rough because during the whole day we get maybe two, three minutes of fresh air and no sun at all.”
The lack of fans, it appears, affected the Greek more than Thiem. “Main differences? People in the stands,” quipped Tsitsipas when quizzed about the difference between his match this and last year against Thiem.
Thiem improved 5-3 against Tsitsipas with the win. He gets Rafa, as the reward, on Tuesday.
Rafael Nadal versus Andrey Rublev
Rublev is a dangerous player, but Nadal handled him quite well with the 6-3, 6-4 victory. Rublev has come a long way from the 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 thrashing by Rafa at the 2017 US Open. Whereas Nadal extended the H2H advantage to 2-0 against Rublev.
Andrey Rublev gets Stefanos Tsitsipas on Tuesday. They are evenly matched, 2-2, in their head-to-head and split the two clay court encounters in 2020. Tsitsipas won this event in 2019 and must register a win against Andrey to stand a shot at making semifinals this year.
Also read: Rafa decimates Djokovic
Prediction: Tsitsipas, we believe, sports a 51% to 49% shot at beating Rublev.
Thiem versus Nadal on Tuesday
Only one can win in the match between Nadal and Thiem on Tuesday. The headlines certainly cannot read “Thiem and Nadal register wins in London.” The Thiem versus Nadal clash, we believe, will be the barn burner we all expect. Both have a somewhat similar baseline grinding style and huge back-swings on the forehand. Rafa leads the head-to-head 9-5 but they split the hard court results 1-1 between them.
Dominic, we believe, stands a good shot to improve 6-9 against Rafa if he can perform as well as he did against Tsitsipas. Relentless controlled aggression will be the key to beat Rafa here. Thiem must hug the baseline and charge the net whenever presented with the opportunity against the bull.
The 34 years old Spaniard wants to win the year-end championship at least once before he hangs his racket and rides into the sunset. And, he appears motivated to deliver this time around. Rafa appears more fresh than he ever has at this event. And, it would take a Herculean effort from Thiem to derail the Rafa train.
“I think it’s a positive start,” Nadal commented in the post match interview. “Always here the first match is tricky. You are playing the best of the best. Now I have a super tough match against Dominic.”
Conclusion: This is a tough match to call. The only shot for Thiem is to call the shots and stay a little more aggressive than he was against Tsitsipas.