EXCLUSIVE – In conversation with Greg Rusedski as he talks ATP Finals and why Rafael Nadal is not a big contender

Kevin Palmer
Amazon Prime Video Greg Rusedski, Daniela Hantuchova, Catherine Whitaker

When former British No 1 Greg Rusedski spoke exclusively to Tennis365 in May, the tennis world was in a state of flux.

With Wimbledon cancelled for the first time since the World War II and the future of the 2020 season hanging in the balance amid the Covid-19 pandemic, it seemed as if the sport was facing up to its biggest crisis.

Yet as Greg prepares for his latest stint presenting the ATP Final as part of the outstanding Amazon Prime Sport team, we had a chance to look back on a what turned out to be a surprisingly dramatic second half of the season.

Here in the first part of our exclusive interview with the 1997 US Open finalist, we discuss the ATP Final, why Novak Djokovic continues to attract criticism and who he expects to challenge for the final big title of the year.

Are you surprised we have managed to squeeze so much tennis into 2020?

I think the ATP has done a great job to keep the tournaments running and to get three Grand Slams and pretty much a full schedule since the game resumed in the summer is a credit to all.Ā 

Now have the ATP Finals in London to round it off and it is a bit of a shame it is ending without a crowd because it has been, without doubt, the best venue we have had this event in. My generation we played in Hanover which wasn’t as glamorous venue compared to the other two so I guess Turin has a lot to live up to next year.

Who are your favourites to win the ATP Finals?

Novak is a worthy favourite, but he hasn’t won this event since 2015 and that shows the level of competition he is up against. Stefanos Tsitsipas was champion last year and he has to be a big contender to retain the title, while Alexander Zverev is always dangerous on a fast indoor court. Then I look at Daniil Medvedev and I think the winner will come from those four. Novak also has the desire to equal Mr Federer’s record of winning six ATP Finals titles and that is extra motivation for him this year. He knows the record books, he knows what he wants from the rest of his career.

How tough is it to beat Novak on this surface?

You need to play the game of your life and we saw that from Dominic Thiem when he beat Novak last year. That was one of the best tennis matches I’ve ever seen as the pace the were hitting the ball at was frightening. I was courtside for that match and it was an incredible match, a barnstormer. If we get anything like that again this year, we will have some fireworks at the 02 Arena.

You don’t see Rafael Nadal as a live contender then?

I’d love to see him win it once, but there are factors working against him. The court surface is too low bouncing for him, and the ball comes through too much. We saw Zverev beat him in Paris and his own serve wasn’t quite good enough against a player who had a first serve he could not control. It’s not impossible that he could win this event, but it would be a surprise for me if he did it.

Will the heavy defeat Nadal inflicted on Djokovic in the French Open final be a factor if they meet again at the ATP Finals?

I don’t think so. It was a clay court, Nadal played great and Novak will put that kind of match behind him and move on. When you see what you need to do to beat Djokovic on this court, you appreciate why I say he’s the favourite. There are no outside elements in an indoor court, you can hit everything perfectly and that allows players to put Rafa under more pressure.

Amazon Prime members in the UK and Ireland will have exclusive access to live tennis coverage from theĀ NittoĀ ATPĀ Finals 2020, fromĀ Sunday 15thĀ to Sunday 22ndĀ November.

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