Rafael Nadal pulls out of ATP World Tour Finals with knee injury after defeat by David Goffin
World number one battles through the pain in three-set loss before confirming his season is over
The spirit was as strong as ever but Rafael Nadal’s troublesome knee failed him in the end as the Spaniard quit the ATP World Tour Finals after a painful defeat by Belgium’s David Goffin.
Nadal, at 31 the oldest player to finish a year ranked number one, fought until the last point at London’s O2 Arena, saving four match points in a compelling clash before losing 7-6( 7-5), 6-7 (4-7), 6-4 in two hours and 37 minutes.
“My season is finished,” the 16-times grand slam champion said in a post-match news conference, minutes after his defeat.
“I had a commitment with the event, with the city, with myself. I tried hard. I did the thing that I had to do to try to be ready to play.
World number eight Goffin, the first player from Belgium to qualify for the year-ending tournament in its 48-year history, was a bundle of nerves at times but finally steadied himself to put Nadal out of his misery with his 14th ace.
Nadal, whose right knee flared up at the recent Paris Masters, could be seen grimacing as the match wore on, especially when he was forced wide or low, but he still managed to scrap his way back from 4-1 down in the decider, despite apparently playing on one leg.
The Mallorcan, whose career has been plagued by tendinitis, made a stunning comeback from a wrist injury this year when he reached the Australian Open final, then won a 10th French Open title after a three-year grand slam drought.
He then went on to win the US Open and reclaim the world’s top ranking for the first time since 2014.
“I really believed that I don’t deserve after this great season to spend two more days on court with this terrible feeling, that’s all,” said Nadal, who will now try to recover for the start of next season.
It was a shame that Goffin’s first win against a world number one was overshadowed by Nadal’s misfortune because the nimble Belgian thoroughly deserved his win, even if he nearly blew it.
“It’s the best win of my career,” Goffin, who will lead Belgium in the David Cup final against France, said. “It was tough even if he was not moving 100 per cent.”
Goffin completed a great day for first-time qualifiers after Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov prevailed 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 in a superb tussle with Austrian Dominic Thiem.
The world number six served for the match at 5-4 in the decider but was broken to love before two consecutive double faults by Thiem gave him another chance to close it out.
Again Dimitrov wobbled, squandering two match points at 40-15 with a double-fault and a tight forehand error, but he finally bagged the win when Thiem looped a backhand long.