Rafael Nadal cast doubt on his chances of winning a first ATP Finals title following what he called a “terrible” display in the defeat to Tommy Paul at the Paris Masters.
The Spaniard knew he had a chance of toppling Carlos Alcaraz in the race to end the season as the world No. 1, but those hopes were halted by a 3-6 7-6(4) 6-1 loss.
Nadal was playing his first match as a father, and had admitted it was “tough to leave home” with his son only three weeks old.
And following the match in Paris, Nadal was magnanimous in defeat and stressed he had “nothing to lose” when heading to Turin for the ATP Finals, which start on November 13.
“I’m excited about playing, even if it hasn’t been the perfect couple of months for me, of course,” said Nadal.
“But, yeah, nothing to lose. After a good year, going there, just trying my best.”
Nadal swiftly confirmed his place in the season-ending event after winning both the Australian Open and French Open.
A terrific start to 2022 slowed down due to injuries, with Nadal pulling out of his Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios in the summer.
Since Wimbledon he has played just six matches, and only competed in the doubles with Roger Federer at the Laver Cup, which is why he said an ATP Finals triumph would be “difficult to imagine”.
The 36-year-old also said he would “fight” to reach future ATP Finals.
He added: “At the end, I need days on the Tour. It’s true that for the last five months I didn’t spend enough days on the Tour. I don’t even say competing on a tennis court; I say on the Tour, practising with the guys.
“That’s what I need. I am going to try — [if] nothing happens, if I am feeling OK — to be there [in Turin] a little bit earlier than usual and have some practices.
“Just give myself a chance to enjoy another [Nitto ATP] Finals. You never know when is going to be the last, especially at my age. So I’m going to give my best to enjoy this one, and then [the] next years of course I’m going to fight to be back there.
“A lot of things going on the last couple of months, without a doubt. But we are always ready to find excuses, but at the end, it’s always the same. You play well, you win; you don’t, you lose. And today for moments, putting everything in a pack, I was playing quite well.”
On his defeat to Paul, the American who had called it the “best win” of his career, Nadal had no complaints.
“I had my match in that second set with [a] set and break,” Nadal said.
“I played a terrible game there. Yeah, I didn’t deserve the victory playing that bad in that key moment, no. Until that moment it was OK, a good match for me, knowing that is my first match since a while.”