Rafael Nadal has his best ever opportunity to end his career ATP Finals hoodoo this year, believes Daniela Hantuchova. There will be no Roger Federer at the 2020 Finals while Nadal thrashed Novak Djokovic in the French Open final having suffered disappointment at the US Open.
The Serbian is seen as Nadal’s biggest threat to the title in London but suffered the joint-worst defeat of his career against Lorenzo Sonego, losing 6-2, 6-1 at the Vienna Open last month.
While Nadal, who has struggled to recreate his success on other surfaces on hard indoor courts, enjoyed a positive Paris Masters despite losing to Alexander Zverev at the Paris Masters.
This is the 16th successive year he has qualified for the Finals but he has never won the trophy and has only twice been a runner-up, in 2010 and 2013.
And former world No 5 Hantuchova believes Nadal has a golden chance to win the tournament for the first time ever with Djokovic warned that the Spaniard, who faces Andrey Rublev this evening in his first round-robin match, is looking “dangerous”.
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“I think if there was a time for him to have the best chance to win, it’s now,” Amazon Prime analyst Hantuchova told Express Sport.
“He’s fresher, I think we saw that in Paris-Bercy that he was moving around the court incredibly well, I would say almost better than in Paris!
“We know how well he can slide on the clay but he was very impressive. Normally at this time of the year he gets a little bit more tired than the others because the way he plays is very physical and this time around he doesn’t have this problem.
“That’s what is going to make him so dangerous this time around. Just having that consistency and playing so many times in the ATP Finals, I think if there was a chance for him, it would be now.
“If he feels more pressure? I can’t speak for him, only he knows that.
“I guess it’s a good point for him to prove he can win titles indoors as well, where he hasn’t really had that record compared to all the incredible ones he’s got everywhere else.
“I felt like he wanted that Bercy title as well big time but the spin just doesn’t bounce and doesn’t take off the court the way it does on the clay or the hard courts outside.”.
Asked who will be feeling more pressure to win this year given Nadal’s lack of success at the Finals and Djokovic’s recent disappointments, Hantuchova added: “It’s so personal that I think only Novak and Rafa know that, we’d have to ask them.
“They’re such incredible competitors that no matter they feel pressure or not, they know how to go about it and come out with their best tennis when it really counts.
“That’s why they’re such incredible champions so I can’t really speak for them as far as whether they feel more pressure or not.
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“I think just because of everything that’s been happening in the world this year, I think there is more joy than pressure among the players.
“I think they appreciate that they have the opportunity to compete and that has translated to much more joy on the court and that’s why we’re seeing so many incredible matches, nobody is mentally checking out, they’re giving 150 per cent out there because they appreciate the opportunity that we actually have some live tennis and it’s really cool to see that.”
Hantuchova has been one of very few allowed inside the bubble of major ATP tournaments since the sport returned amid the pandemic and will be at the Finals on behalf of Amazon Prime.
And she added: “It’s been a real privilege for me, I was there for Roland Garros, now here in London for the ATP Finals.
“Even doing a lot of stuff from our Amazon studio in London, it’s still special, just the fact to have live tennis in these days is incredible.
“I just spoke to Guy Forget, the tournament director of Paris-Bercy and Roland Garros, on my podcast and he said the same thing.
“Even if we’re not playing anymore, we still get the same adrenaline from being part of the tournament, whether it’s organising part as his or me in the media, you just appreciate how special the sport is.
“I felt when I retired I was never going to go away from something that I love so much because it’s really in my DNA.”
Former Tennis Professional and current Sports Broadcaster and Social Influencer Daniela Hantuchova interviews highly successful guests from the world of sports, entertainment, and culture on her podcast The Real DNA. Daniela pursues the common thread or the DNA of what breeds success at the highest levels. You can listen here.
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