Rafael Nadal was one of Andrey Rublev’s idols growing up. While the Russian has proven he has the level to compete with the best players in the world, he admitted on Sunday evening that playing the greats still takes some getting used to.

In his first-ever Nitto ATP Finals match, Rublev fell against Nadal in straight sets.

“I don’t really play with top players, so all the other players, they play much more with [the] top players, and me… it’s [only] my second time against Rafa,” Rublev said. “I only played three times against [the] top three players [Nadal, Djokovic and Federer]. I don’t really have much experience, so [the] more I will play against them, [the] better I think I will perform every time.”

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The ATP Tour’s season leader in titles (5) and wins (40) is now 0-2 in his ATP Head2Head series against the Spaniard. Their last clash came at the 2017 US Open, where Nadal triumphed in the quarter-finals 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. Rublev beat Roger Federer in their only previous meeting at last year’s Western & Southern Open. He has never faced World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

Rublev believes that his relative lack of experience made the difference at The O2 in London.

“I was serving not good at all, because I was a little bit nervous, which is normal,” Rublev said. “When he broke me in the second set, I relaxed and I started to serve much better. Then [it] was [a] different game, but it was too late.”

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The Moscow-native didn’t feel there were any issues with his lead-up to the season finale. Entering his battle against Nadal, he had played 30 matches since the ATP Tour’s August restart (25-5). But Rublev feels he recovered sufficiently after a three-set loss at the Rolex Paris Masters against Stan Wawrinka.

“Here I came fresh. I rested a couple of days. Then I practised just [a] few days,” Rublev said. “It’s more about experience. Rafa is one of the top players, so he wins a Grand Slam, he wins one [ATP] Masters [1000], and he basically doesn’t need to play [as] many tournaments [as me]… In my case it’s different. I need to fight for my spot, so I needed to play those weeks.”

The benefit of the round-robin format is that Rublev isn’t eliminated. The seventh seed will have a chance to recover in Group London 2020, with matches still to come against US Open titlist Dominic Thiem (1-0) and defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas (0-1). One person who doesn’t seem worried about Rublev’s loss is the man who beat him: Nadal.

“Andrey played an amazing season. He’s a great guy, too,” Nadal said. “I wish him all the very best.”

Source: Tennis – ATP World Tour