Rafael Nadal‘s uncle and former coach, Toni Nadal reflected upon Rafa’s semifinal loss against Daniil Medvedev at this year’s ATP Finals. The semifinal loss marked the end of a tumultuous year for Rafa which featured some highs and lows for him.
In 2020, he won a historic 13th title at the Roland Garros, however, he failed to win his maiden ATP Finals trophy despite qualifying for the tournament a number of times.
A great opportunity slipped away: Toni Nadal
In a column of the Spanish publication El Pais, Toni Nadal dubbed his nephew’s loss as ‘painful’ and an opportunity that got away.
“Rafael’s defeat against Daniil Medvedev in Saturday’s semifinals at the Nitto ATP Finals was painful, given the magnitude and importance of the tournament and, above all, because a great opportunity slipped away: a cup that he has never been able to lift, having deployed all week tennis of the highest level,” Toni wrote.
He went on to praise Rafa’s tactical discussions in crucial moments in the semifinal, “The match was eminently tactical. In the opening games, the Russian, supported by a great service, was clearly superior. And even so, he did not get away on the scoreboard. He was winning his services quite forcefully, while Rafael (Nadal) had to suffer to keep his, until the middle of the first set. The surprising fact is that Daniil chained the first 16 aces consecutively, something that I had never seen in any of the matches that my nephew has played throughout his career.”
“In the second half of this first set, Rafael made the right decision to change strategy and stopped playing his usual game to cut mostly his backhand and play more in the center of the court,” Nadal’s uncle added.
“The intention was, clearly, to neutralize the attack of his rival, who returned insufferable blows if the track was opened,” he further wrote.
Toni Nadal observed a dip in Rafa’s intensity which gave Medvedev the window to take the match away from him.
“After not being able to score that conclusive game, he lost the set in the tie break and then, judging by the impression he gave me, the fatigue suffered and he was no longer able to maintain the same intensity in the rest of the match,” he wrote.
The ‘Big 3’ will continue to challenge for slams: Toni Nadal
Furthermore, Toni acknowledged that the young generation of players has finally arrived at the big stage and will compete with the ‘Big 3’, but he still believes that Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are not done yet.
They will continue to fight at their full potential at the upcoming tournament and will be favorites to win them.
“However, when it comes to taking stock of this strange year, the assessment has to be clearly positive,” Toni wrote.
“Raising the French Open for the 13th time amply justifies this appreciation. But, in addition, the game exhibited both at Roland Garros and in London makes me hope to see him face a difficult but exciting season in 2021, in which he will once again have exciting opportunities,” writes Nadal.
“I am convinced that the step forward taken by Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas or Alexander Zverev, not to mention someone else, is now definitive. But I am also happy that, for yet another year, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will fight to the limit of their strength to continue climbing to the podiums of the Grand Slams and the most important tournaments,” he concluded.