Rafa sees tough Thiem in first indoor meeting

LONDON • With a 9-5 head-to-head advantage over Dominic Thiem, Rafael Nadal will be the favourite in today’s London 2020 group clash at the ATP Finals.

However, the pair have never played on an indoor hard court – their past two encounters were on outdoor hard courts with one win apiece – so the world No. 2 is expecting a “super difficult” match against his third-ranked opponent.

Nadal, who last month equalled Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slams by landing the French Open, has won 86 Tour titles but just one of those has come on an indoor hard court.

The Spaniard will be looking to improve on that record after launching his bid for a first ATP Finals trophy in style on Sunday, taming in-form Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4 at the empty O2 Arena.

The 34-year-old Nadal did not face a break point in the 77-minute match and he later said he would take confidence from the comprehensive victory.

“Always the first match is very tricky,” he said. “I think my serve worked very well tonight so that’s a bit of help always on these surfaces. I had my few chances on the return and I converted.”

He has qualified for season-ending ATP Finals for a record 16 straight years but has twice lost in the final and missed six editions because of injuries.

Standing in his way of reaching the semi-finals is US Open champion Thiem. The Austrian earlier avenged his defeat by Stefanos Tsitsipas in last year’s championship match, beating the Greek sixth seed 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-3.

“I think the level was higher last year,” said Thiem. “We were both in great shape last year in the final, we wanted that title 100 per cent. The atmosphere was insane last year in the final and today was a little bit different.”

While Thiem admitted he was not a fan of the closed-door experience, especially as this is the 12th and last year the tournament will be in London before moving to Turin, he expressed his support for electronic line calling.

“The electric line call, I like it a lot,” he added. “Because there are no wrong decisions any more.”

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