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ATP Finals preview & pick: Rafael Nadal vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas |




Stefanos Tsitsipas was one point away from becoming the first defensive Nitto ATP Finals champion since David Nalbandian lost his first two round-robin matches in 2006, but thanks to a costly double fault on Andrey Rublev’s match point, the Greek now controls his own destiny.

To reach the semifinals, Tsitsipas will have to beat Rafael Nadal for the second time in seven tries, and while the odds are stacked against him, he certainly has the right mindset.

I know it will take a lot of physical effort, and I will have to endure a lot of pain and suffering, so it will be a difficult match, Tsitsipas told the press. I expect a fight on my part.

Beating Nadal is like climbing a mountain, and doing it with a one-handed backhand is like climbing without an oxygen tank. It is tiring. Regardless of the opponent, if Nadal sees a one-handed sword across the net, he will punch that side with a heavy forehand. It’s the simplest and most repeatable game plan that has worked nearly 83 percent of the time. According to ultimatetennisstatistics.comthe Spaniard has a record of 303-63 against players with a one-handed backhand.

Almost every match at the ATP Finals offers the players a new slate, due to the complex scoring format, the player could theoretically lose their first two matches and still qualify for the semi-finals. But judging by the pair’s first two games, Nadal has clearly taken a higher level to London.

Besides physical suffering, Tsitsipas will also have to play risky tennis. At age 65, it would be wise to add some serve and volley plays.

As well as detecting an attackable forehand he presented as below.

Tsitsipas acknowledged on Thursday that he must be the aggressor.

I’m going to try to play aggressive tennis, you can’t play defensively with Rafa, “he said.” Try to play the rallies, apply pressure, serve well. It’s part of the game I want to play against Rafa. I think everyone should play this way.

But there is one glaring problem in the Tsitsipas game that will likely turn out to be tricky tomorrow: his extremely unconventional open-stand backhand.

As tennis analyst Matthew Willis noted in a discussion worth a few minutes of your day, instead of right-handed Tsitsipas planting his right foot for the slice, he plants his left foot. Due to this technical foul, he is unable to generate enough pace and backspin on the shot, and it often ends up floating rather than skidding through the track.

Willis showcased a few examples of the ATP’s best slice backhands, including those of Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, and Grigor Dimitrov. They all hit a slab with closed stance, which allows their weight to be transferred to the front leg. This allows for full hip rotation, as well as an open path for the right arm to follow through.

Last year in London, Nadal was able to expose this weakness again and again.

Of course, this is just one wrinkle in a high stakes match that is sure to keep you entertained, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for. The oddsmakers call Nadal a solid -245 favorite with the most likely outcome being a 7-6, 6-4 scoreline. Tsitsipas has defeated Nadal before and will likely beat the Spaniard a few more times in his career, but don’t expect the Greek to triumph on Thursday.

The choice: Rafael Nadal

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