World No. 2 Rafael Nadal could almost see the finish line as he faced a rock-solid Daniil Medvedev for a spot in the championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner claimed a tense opening set against the Russian, a player he had defeated in their previous three ATP Head2Head encounters, and broke late in the second set to serve for the match, leading 5-4.
A victory would have put him one step closer to claiming the only Big Title that has eluded him after 10 appearances.
But Medvedev made Nadal wait a little longer, as he broke back to love and turned the match on its head to reach his first final at the season-finale.
“I think at the beginning of the match he was better than me,” Nadal assessed in his post-match press conference. “I was able to save my serves with troubles, but then I played well to have the break and then to close the set.
“In the second, a little bit the same story at the beginning, but at the end of the set, I was playing a little bit better than him.
And then in the 5-4, I think he played a good game and I didn’t. I played a bad game. That’s it. But I had a big opportunity. I lost a big opportunity.”
With his abbreviated 2020 season in the books, Nadal was eager to put the defeat behind him and look ahead to next year.
The typically level-headed Spaniard said he is approaching the off-season with the same full-throttle drive and motivation as he approaches most matches and tournaments.
“My goal is always the same: to go to every tournament and to give myself a chance to compete well and to try to win it,” Nadal said.
“That’s the goal of every year. My motivation [has] been always the same. Next year is going to be an important year.
I hope to be ready to fight for the things that I want to fight [for]. I’m going to work hard during the off-season to be ready for the beginning.”