LONDON • Rafael Nadal has insisted he can still win the ATP Finals for the first time despite a damaging 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-4) defeat by Dominic Thiem on Tuesday.
The Austrian became the first player to qualify for the semi-finals, while the Spaniard, who is bidding to finally lift the one major prize missing from his packed trophy cabinet, must beat reigning ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas today to join him.
The sixth-seeded Greek eliminated Russian seventh seed Andrey Rublev 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (8-6) to set up a winner-takes-all London 2020 group clash at a closed-door O2 Arena, but Nadal is looking forward to the challenge.
"I'm happy with the way I played. I think my chances are bigger to have a very good result now than five days ago because the level of tennis, even if I lost today (against Thiem), for me, is much higher," said the joint-record 20-time Grand Slam winner, who has a 5-1 advantage in head-to-head meetings with the Greek.
The world No. 2 has won 86 titles but just one of those has come on an indoor hard court.
He has also qualified for the ATP Finals for 16 years in a row, losing in the 2010 and 2013 finals. But his record at the eight-man elite event pales in comparison with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic after six injury withdrawals.
Potentially facing another disappointment in the season finale, Nadal said he could not explain his problems at the event but insisted there was no asterisk against him.
"I think even if I never won here, I don't want to pretend to be arrogant at all, because I am not," he added. "But I really don't need to show even to myself or to no one that if I am playing my best tennis, I think I can win in every surface and against any player.
"I never won in the World Tour Finals. That's the real thing at the same time. I have a match against Tsitsipas in two days. Gonna be another tough one.
"I hope to be ready. I think playing like this I am confident that I can have my chances in the tournament."
Like Nadal, Tsitsipas has no intention of going home early, vowing to take the game to the French Open champion.
1 Only one of Rafael Nadal's 86 career titles has come on an indoor hard court - the Madrid Open in 2005.
"I'm going to try and play an aggressive game against Rafa," he said. "You can't be defensive. I have to start strong and finish even stronger."
World No. 3 Thiem, who won the US Open in September for his first Grand Slam title, meanwhile looks to go one better than last year's runner-up finish.
Yesterday, in the Tokyo 1970 group, 2018 ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev of Germany outlasted Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to eliminate the Argentinian and kept his own hopes alive.
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