In terms of big match experience and titles, there’s a lot to separate them ahead of the clash at ATP Tour Finals. But on current form, Rafael Nadal and Andrey Rublev will start as equals in the second group stage fixture at the Finals on Monday.
Nadal, who clinched an unprecedented 13th French Open title this year, has an impressive 25-5 win/loss record going into the Tour Finals.
With five Tour titles under his belt already this year, the rising Russian star will also head to London’s O2 Arena bursting with confidence.
Currently at 8th in the ATP players’ rankings, Rublev last title win came at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna.
Mentally, however, Rublev is a lot better placed than the World No.2 Spaniard ahead of their round-robin tie.
While not conceding as much, Nadal will carry the bogey of never having won the season-ender in nine attempts.
And as is the case with champions, Nadal will have the pressure of expectations on him as he bids to end his title drought in London this year.
Rublev is playing his maiden Tour Finals this year and won’t be weighed down by negative thoughts.
The Russian will go into the tournament with not much to lose and plenty to gain.
However, what will give the Spaniard a measure of belief going into the round-robin tie is that he has been a two-time finalist at the Tour Finals.
Also the fact that he has qualified for the prestigious event 15 times, not counting this year.
Nadal also skipped the event six times despite qualifying for it.
In what is his breakthrough year in the game, Rublev will fancy giving the Spaniard a run for his money in London.
Barring the Hamburg Open, which is played on clay, Rublev won all his Tour titles this year on hard courts.
Nadal, in his own words, has never been comfortable on concrete, and it has reflected on his title-less run at the O2 Arena.
Nadal, however, holds a 1-0 advantage over the Russian in head-to-head record.
Their only meeting was at the quarters of 217 US Open, which Nadal won in straight sets.
At 39, the Russian is tied with 17-time Slam winner Novak Djokovic for the most number of wins on the tour this season.
So, expect the Spaniard to face a stern test when he faces up to the 6’2” Russian.