By Ros Satar, at the O2 – London
- Rafael Nadal will test out his rested knee against David Goffin in the night session
- Before the Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem will open their campaigns in the day session
LONDON, UK – World No.1 Rafael Nadal starts his bid to capture the one major title that has eluded him as he brings down the curtain on Day 2 at the ATP World Tour Finals.
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Dominic Thiem  v Grigor Dimitrov  | H2H: Thiem leads 2-1
We could be in for another close match as the second group gets underway on Day Two of the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals. Tour workhorse Dominic Thiem has a slim edge over Grigor Dimitrov but their two matches this year have gone the distance, and this one could well be no different.
Thiem may have qualified earlier for the World Tour Finals this time, but still has a reputation for packing in as many tournaments that is humanly possible in a season. The upshot is while he picked up a good mass of points with great runs on his favoured clay, reaching the semi-final of Roland Garros, the second half of his year maybe was not as consistent as he would have liked.
He admitted it had been hard to get over his fourth round loss at the US Open, in a five setter against Juan Martin Del Potro, and despite no back to back wins since then, he maintained that he was feeling ready for another tilt in London.
“I’m not really tired. Last year I was for sure. I had some good practises. I’m feeling very fresh. There was a lot of pressure on me last year. It was something completely new for me. I was nervous, it’s very different this year. I qualified as the fourth player so I’m not the last player – it feels better. I think I can enjoy it more this year.”
He will open against Dimitrov in the day session on Day Two, and although Dimitrov trails their head to head, he will feel buoyed by the fact that he took the honours at the start of the year, on his way to the Brisbane title.
Dimitrov said, of the match-up: “I played a few times with Dominic this year, he’s one of the best players to be here – he’s obviously done something right. I’m looking forward to it. It’s nice to do the final rounds against the top players. I’m just looking out for what’s on my side of the net. I think it’s going to be a great match.”
While Dimitrov might not rely on his serve for plenty of free points, his solid all-court play on one of his favourite surfaces should give him some confidence coming in. He won his biggest title in Cincinnati as he claimed a maiden Masters title, and will look to dominate from the baseline.
We can expect to match Dimitrov for aggression at the back of the court, and we could be in for a battle of the single-handed backhands. But the edge goes to young Austrian who perhaps can do a little more damage with his serve. His patience in constructing his shots could be a factor if Dimitrov tries to rush things and be more impulsive.
Prediction: Thiem in three sets.
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Rafael Nadal  v David Goffin  | H2H: Nadal leads 2-0
Inevitably, all eyes will be on World No. 1 Rafael Nadal to see how his knee holds up. While his most recent practices have looked a little better in terms of his movement, he still remained cautiously optimistic in his pre-tournament press conference.
He said: “If didn’t believe I was I wasn’t ready for Monday I wouldn’t be here. Working every day, practising well, and trying to get ready.”
Nadal’s own torrid times with injury saw him cut out all of the grass court season, and had to miss the ATP Finals last year. His time out though saw him return rejuvenated, making the Australian Open final, and winning an historic 10th Roland Garros title, and adding the US Open to his trophy cabinet.
Nadal had positive words of encouragement for David Goffin, making his debut here at the World Tour Finals. The Belgian’s comeback after the injury he sustained in Roland Garros was nothing short of miraculous
Nadal said: “After what happened at RG, it is right that he should be here. He’s a great player, a great human person, always had a good relationship with him, very happy to see him recovered and playing well. Hopefully he will not play that well on Monday!”
Knee aside, Nadal’s more limited season ought to see him well-prepared for the fight on Monday, but Goffin has his eye on a few tactics of his own.
He said: “It’s the toughest opponent to start this campaign here. It won’t be easy of course. We’ve played some good matches – on clay in Madrid for example. Rafa won and we’ll try and play another good match here. I’ll try and play good tennis and pay some good rallies and play good tennis and make him run a lot.
“The rebound is lower on indoor hard court. Rafael cannot slide on this surface, he’s more comfortable on clay. He’s happy to take it early here. It’s easier to take the ball early here so you can do a lot more winners so I’m going to try against him in my first match. It’s not easy, he’s a great fighter, defender, as soon as you give him a short ball, he’ll be onto it.”
While the pair have only met twice, both times this year, the wins for Nadal have been on clay, and while he maintains he has no issues with playing on hard courts, it is no secret that this surface at season’s end has been his biggest bugbear.
It will still be a tough ask for Goffin to take a set off Nadal for the first time, much less get the win, but picking up two titles in Shenzhen and Tokyo, before a run to the semi-final in Basel puts the Belgian in a decent run of form.
We feel inclined to give him a set at least, but Nadal to open his account with a win.
Prediction: Nadal in three sets.
Play starts at 12pm GMT on Monday; Thiem & Dimitrov not before 2pm, Nadal & Goffin not before 8pm.
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