Will injury disrupt Rafael Nadal's end of season ATP Finals again?
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 05/11/19 11:25am
Back on July 10, Rafael Nadal became the first player to qualify for the 2019 ATP Finals. The history books show that his early qualification isn't unusual... but if he takes to court and is victorious, then that would be a very different story entirely.
Nadal has qualified for the year-end competition for the past 15 years in succession, however during that period of time he has only made it to the final twice.
For someone who has 19 Grand Slam titles, enduring such a 'drought' doesn't quite stack up.
That is until you look at the timing of the competition, take another look at his records leading into it and then factor in the unwavering physicality of the Spaniard...
At the elite level of tennis, physicality and stamina are the sport's cornerstones. For Nadal, his course is fuelled by intense physicality which he couples with his skill and his world-class competitive instinct.
The Spaniard gives every fibre of his body to every point, taking his opponent to a level of competition that they cannot match.
Physically, he is the most intense out of all the qualifiers and with that comes the potential for injury as the season rolls on.
A tough last decade at ATP Finals for Rafael Nadal
|2018||First to qualify||Withdrew on November 5 (ankle)|
|2017||First to qualify||Withdrew after first match against David Goffin (knee)|
|2016||Points accumulated to qualify||Wrist injury ended season on October 20|
|2015||Fifth to qualify||Semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic|
|2014||Second to qualify||Withdrew on October 24 (appendix surgery)|
|2013||First to qualify||Final loss to Novak Djokovic|
|2012||One of a trio of first qualifiers||Withdrew on October 25 (knee )|
|2011||Second to qualify||Two group match losses|
|2010||First to qualify||Lost to Federer in the final|
|2009||Second to qualify||Three group match losses|
In the past three years injuries to the Spaniard's ankle, knee and wrist have either prevented him from stepping onto court at the O2 Arena or have prematurely halted his progression. Prior to that, appendix surgery and another knee issue curtailed his presence.
Now, his withdrawal ahead of his semi-final in Paris will spark concerns that once again he may not make it onto court at the O2 Arena. Or if he does, he may not have the ability to finally break his competition duck and add the title to his current world No 1 status.
Nadal's injury run; a run that has impacted on this competition so strongly, takes nothing away from him as a player or as a Grand Slam winner. Instead, it's purely a matter of physiology and on some occasions, potentially just a matter of bad luck.
His relentlessness on court and the way in which he breaks physical boundaries often lead us to believe that he cannot be broken. But, his record at the ATP Finals show otherwise, it's regularly been just one tournament too far.
I will do all that I can do and all that's mathematically possible to recover for it
Following his withdrawal in Paris, Nadal's determination to take to court in London was clear.
"We can call it unlucky, we can call it different things, but it happened," Nadal told atptour.com in Paris.
"And when things happen, the only thing that you can do is accept it. And even if it's a tough situation for me, I need to stay positive.
"It's tough to finish like this, this event [in Paris]. But I need to accept and recover well mentally and physically from that. I hope to be ready for London. That's the biggest goal right now."
Hola a todos. Ayer tuve una resonancia en Mallorca y a pesar de tener una pequeña distensión en el recto abdominal derecho, viajaré a Londres. Jueves o viernes iniciaré la adaptación al servicio. La idea es de poder jugar las #atpfinals en Londres. Gracias por el apoyo!— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) November 5, 2019
Not only is the tournament title on the line, a title that's evaded Nadal for years, but the honour of being year-end No 1 is too.
There are just 640 points between Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the ATP rankings and holding off the charge of Djokovic would mean that the Spaniard becomes the oldest player to finish as year-end No 1 in history.
If the Serbian is to snatch back the position then he knows that going undefeated at The O2, and earning 1,500 points, would give him the best possible to chance do that.
For both individuals duelling for this coveted prize will fuel their competitive instincts and neither will want to gain the position due to external factors such as injuries.
Line-up for 2019 ATP Finals
|Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic|
|Roger Federer||Daniil Medvedev|
|Dominic Thiem||Stefanos Tsitsipas|
|Matteo Berrettini||Alexander Zverev|
After Matteo Berrettini clinched the final spot, this year's line-up for the ATP Finals has been completed. Group Andre Agassi and Group Bjorn Borg, in whichever form they take, have the potential to throw up some striking matches.
Within the eight-player line-up, Daniil Medvedev, if he manages physically too, could put the cherry on the top of a stunning breakthrough season. Or perhaps Roger Federer will secure his first ATP Finals title since 2011?
When it comes to the Spaniard, the hope is that Nadal can take to court in just a few days time and that he won't have to suffer an all-too familiar feeling of frustration if injury prevents his presence in London again.