Tennis

Rafael Nadal stays defiant despite defeat by Dominic Thiem

Rafael Nadal 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 Austria's Dominic Thiem yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Thiem pipped the 34-year-old behind closed doors at London's O2 Arena to put a dent on the Spanish star's bid to lift the one major prize missing from his packed trophy cabinet.

Thiem, 27, became the first player to qualify for the semi-finals a few hours later when reigning champion Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Russian seventh seed Andrey Rublev 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (8/6).

Nadal, who lost the 2010 and 2013 finals of the event, has to beat Tsitsipas in his last group match to reach the semi-finals of the prestigious season-ending tournament.

Said Nadal: "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, for me is much higher."

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

The world No. 2 has qualified for the ATP Finals for 16 years in a row, but his record at the eight-man elite event pales in comparison with Federer and Novak Djokovic after six injury withdrawals.

Over in the other group, Germany's Alexander Zverev also kept his semi-final hopes alive with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over Diego Schwartzman in his second round-robin match. - AFP

Tennis