LONDON – Rafael Nadal will have to wait another year to win the ATP Finals.
The world No. 1 withdrew from the elite, season-ending tournament after losing his opening match to David Goffin 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (4-7), 6-4 on Monday at the O2 Arena.
Nadal pulled out of the Paris Masters at the quarterfinal stage 10 days ago and admitted ahead of the ATP Finals on the indoor hard-court he struggles on, that his knees, which have caused him trouble throughout his career, were still “not perfect.”
Despite having qualified 13 consecutive times for the ATP Finals and eight appearances, Nadal has never won the event.
Goffin claimed an ugly opening set via a tiebreak and was on the verge of victory in the second, but Nadal’s fighting spirit saved four match points to force another tiebreaker and draw level.
However, the third set proved a step too far for the 16-time Grand Slam champion, who began to struggle with his movement and was in visible pain as Goffin finally claimed victory.
Nadal ominously waved goodbye as he left the court, and confirmed his withdrawal shortly afterward.
Making his debut at the ATP Finals earlier, Grigor Dimitrov withstood a comeback attempt from Dominic Thiem and held on for a 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 victory.
The sixth-ranked Dimitrov maintained his focus despite being narrowly denied a chance to serve out the match in the second set, and then being broken at his first chance in the third.
“Every year you learn more about yourself, about the game, about the players,” Dimitrov said. “I’ve done also a lot of work on and off the court. It’s finally starting to kind of, like, come together.”