Remodelled Nadal faces wary Djokovic in ATP semi-final

World number five tested by compatriot Ferrer ahead of clash with Serbian rival

 Spain’s Rafael Nadal in action against compatriot David Ferrer  in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in the O2 Arena, London, yesterday. Photograph: Tony O’Brien/Livepic via Reuters

Spain’s Rafael Nadal in action against compatriot David Ferrer in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in the O2 Arena, London, yesterday. Photograph: Tony O’Brien/Livepic via Reuters

 
David Ferrer

yesterday afternoon with their usual attention to detail, and will have noticed a dangerous adversary coming out of a slump who is remodelling his game with unexpected daring.

They meet today for the 46th time in the semi-finals of the 2015 Barclays World Tour Finals, the end-of-year bauble Nadal has never won and which Djokovic is defending for the fourth time in a row. It is a reasonable description of the gulf between them on this surface.

Djokovic qualified by beating Tomas Berdych handily on Thursday night, but Nadal had to fight much harder to come out of his group unbeaten, taking two hours and 37 minutes to grind down one of the game’s most obdurate opponents, 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 6-4 – even though he also was assured a weekend gig.

Dead rubber

Stan WawrinkaAndy Murray

It was the first time in 44 matches this year Ferrer has lost after winning the first set.

There were sufficient incentives for both: from a total pot of $7 million, there is a $167,000 participation fee, plus $167,000 per match win.

There is $510,000 winner- take-all for the semi-final winners, $1,050,000 for the winner of the final, plus a further $2,228,000 for an undefeated champion. So, those are numbers to keep any self-respecting professional athlete interested for a week.

After racing to a 3-0 lead, Nadal was stunned when Ferrer put together a four-game streak and, momentarily bewildered, the world number five was soon serving to stay in the set.

Relieved

Nadal historically has found his “real game” after being stretched and there was an inevitability about the fightback. It started with Nadal’s serve, which he repaired quickly enough to level at a set apiece, then further ramped it up in the third to finish with a respectable 74 per cent, winning 39 of 60 first serves overall.

What Djokovic’s eagle-eyed operatives will also have noticed, both on court and in the statistics, is Nadal’s increasing willingness to attack the net, something nobody would have predicted with any confidence even a year ago.

But the clock is ticking on his long career, as it is with Roger Federer.

So, will we get the old Rafa on Saturday or a new version? Djokovic is preparing for a combination of the two. It is unlikely he will be able to take such net-rushing liberties with the Serb but, if his strategy clicks again, it could be lethal. They are all getting a little tired. Guardian Service

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.