ATP Finals preview & choose: Rafael Nadal vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas

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ATP Finals preview & pick: Rafael Nadal vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas


Stefanos Tsitsipas was one level away from turning into the primary defending Nitto ATP Finals champion since David Nalbandian in 2006 to lose his opening two round-robin matches, however due to a pricey double fault on match level from Andrey Rublev, the Greek now controls his personal future. 

To achieve the semifinals, Tsitsipas might want to defeat Rafael Nadal for the second time in seven tries, and whereas the percentages are stacked in opposition to him, he actually has the correct mindset. 

“I do know it is going to require plenty of bodily effort, and I’ll should undergo plenty of ache and struggling, so it’ll be troublesome match,” Tsitsipas instructed press. “I’m anticipating a battle from my aspect.”

Defeating Nadal is like climbing a mountain, and doing so with a one-handed backhand is like climbing with out an oxygen tank. It’s exhausting. Irrespective of the opponent, if Nadal sees a one-hander throughout the web, he’ll pepper that aspect with heavy crosscourt forehands. It’s the only and most repeatable of recreation plans that has labored almost 83 p.c of the time. In line with ultimatetennisstatistics.com, the Spaniard owns a 303-63 report in opposition to gamers with a one-handed backhand. 

Practically each match on the ATP Finals presents the gamers with a contemporary slate, because of the advanced scoring format— a participant may theoretically lose his first two matches and nonetheless qualify for the semifinals. However judging by the pair’s first two matches, it’s clear Nadal has introduced a better degree to London. 

Along with struggling bodily, Tsitsipas might want to play excessive threat tennis. At 6’5”, mixing in some serve and volley performs can be smart.

In addition to cracking any attackable forehand he’s introduced with, just like the one beneath.

Tsitsipas acknowledged he have to be the aggressor on Thursday. 

“I’ll attempt to play aggressive tennis, you may’t play defensive with Rafa,” he mentioned. “Attempt to play the rallies, apply strain, serve effectively. It is a part of the sport that I need to play in opposition to Rafa. I feel everybody has to play this manner.”

However there’s one obtrusive problem in Tsitsipas’ recreation that may seemingly show troublesome tomorrow: his extraordinarily untraditional open-stance slice backhand. 

As tennis analyst Matthew Willis identified in a thread that’s effectively value a couple of minutes of your day, as a substitute of the right-handed Tsitsipas planting his proper foot earlier than the slice, he vegetation his left foot. Due to this technical error, he’s unable to generate sufficient tempo and backspin on the shot, and it usually finally ends up floating as a substitute of skidding by the courtroom. 

Willis introduced just a few examples of the ATP’s greatest slice backhands, together with Roger Federer’s, Dominic Thiem’s and Grigor Dimitrov’s. All of them hit a closed-stance slice, permitting their weight to switch onto the entrance leg. This permits for full hip-rotation, in addition to an open avenue for the correct arm to comply with by. 

Final 12 months in London, Nadal was in a position to expose this weak spot time and again. 

After all, this is only one wrinkle in a high-stakes match that’s certain to entertain, but it surely’s value maintaining a tally of. The oddsmakers peg Nadal as a strong -245 favourite with the probably final result a 7-6, 6-4 scoreline. Tsitsipas has overwhelmed Nadal earlier than, and can seemingly defeat the Spaniard just a few extra instances in his profession, however don’t count on the Greek to prevail on Thursday. 

The Choose: Rafael Nadal

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