Rafael Nadal was full of praise for Taylor Fritz after the American’s victory at the ATP Finals, but he admits his lack of match practice ahead of the tournament played a major role in his defeat.
The 22-time Grand Slam winner played only one singles match in two months – a defeat against Tommy Paul at the Paris Masters – before Sunday’s match against Fritz.
He initially started well as he went toe-to-toe with the American in the first set, but then fell away badly as Fritz secured a 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 victory.
Nadal didn’t have a single break point the entire game while Fritz had one in game three of the first set and another two in game seven, which were all saved the Spaniard. The ninth seed then broke in games four and six of the second seed.
Nadal admitted that his lack of match practice meant he was always on the defence.
“It’s about time. Tennis and the sport in general, it’s about time,” he said. “I have less time than him to do what I want to do on the ball. I felt that everything was going so fast. When that happens, normally you are under stress, and you don’t have the time to play the kind of shot that you want.”
He added: “In most of the points of the match, I was in a defensive position, and he was in an offensive position. That’s what happened… But every single time I came back from injury, [it’s not normal] playing against top players [from] the first day. That’s what’s happens when you are coming back playing Masters 1000s and [the Nitto ATP Finals].”
The world No 2 felt Fritz, who only booked his place in the season-ending event after world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz withdrew due to injury, was the better player on the day.
“We can find different ways to explain what happened, at the end [of the day], Fritz played very well,” he said. “I was not able to handle his power. It’s obvious that in this kind of surface, you need to play very well. You don’t have time to think for a tactic… There is no time. The things are going so quick.
“Serving like Fritz served, then you are under pressure all the time. When somebody is serving that way, on the return he is going for every shot. [It was] just well played from him, not enough from me.”
Up next is Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is one of the in-form players on the ATP Tour as he won three consecutive titles in October. The Canadian, though, is also looking for his first win after he went down against Casper Ruud in the opening match of the 2022 ATP Finals.
“It’s a match like a normal tournament already, because the loser will go out of the tournament normally,” Nadal, who won his two previous encounters against Auger-Aliassime, said. “Just accept that I need to do better things. I hope to be ready to make that happen. He finished the season playing unbelievable, winning [three] tournaments in a row, playing so well. [It is] another big challenge.”
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