Rafael Nadal needs to ignore his battle with Novak Djokovic to secure the year-end No 1 ranking as he weighs up his options ahead of the ATP Finals, according to Amazon Prime tennis expert Mark Petchey.
Nadal heads into the end of year finale with a narrow lead over Djokovic at the top of the ATP rankings, yet he is also nursing an abdominal injury that forced him to pull out of last week’s Paris Masters event before his semi-final.
Despite offering a positive update on his fitness ahead of his opening match of the ATP Finals against Alexander Zverev on Monday, Petchey suggests Nadal has to consider his targets for 2020 when he makes decisions over his participation in the tournament in London and the Davis Cup Finals later this month.
“Rafa needs to think about the bigger picture and not get too focused on the year-end world No 1 ranking,” Petchey told Tennis365 in an exclusive interview.
“He has to make sure he avoids a chronic injury ahead of the Australian Open, which is not too far away and it will be tough for him to be at his best in London if he does have a slight injury problem in that area of his body.
“An abdominal problem is not great for any tennis player to overcome. I pulled my stomach muscle in my playing days and it took a long time for me to overcome that problem and if Rafa has got a slight tear in it, he needs to look at what really matters.
“The Australian Open is only a few weeks away and that battle to finish with the most Grand Slam titles has to be a priority for him now. We would all love to see him fighting Novak for the year-end No 1 ranking, but he has to look ahead to what is a massive year in 2020.”
Petchey believes Djokovic is a strong favourite to win his sixth ATP Finals title in London, with the Serb looking in sparkling form as he won his latest Masters title last week.
“Novak was awesome in Paris,” reflected Petchey. “After the loss against (Stefanos) Tsitsipas in Shanghai and his problem at the US Open, he has dusted himself down and looked in pretty imperious form last week.
“His record indoors is second to none and these court surfaces allow him to play his brand of tennis incredibly effectively.
“The key for me what that he was serving superbly in Paris. His accuracy and power was there in abundance and when he starts serving like that, he is a tough guy for anyone to beat. He is already a pretty immense player to take on, but when he is serving at his best and you are not getting into any of his service games, it makes the task even more difficult.”
Petchey is relishing the latest showdown between Djokovic and Roger Federer in the Bjorn Borg group at the ATP Finals, with his immaculate display as he won his 10th title in his home town of Basel last month suggesting he is in fine touch.
“Djokovic comes in as a strong favourite for the ATP Finals, but Roger is rested after looking in great form as he won Basel again so he will be looking to do well,” he added.
“Roger is someone who continues to impress massively as he manages his schedule so well and still maintains an incredible passion for the game despite being a family man now.
“He has been close to winning a few of the big ones this year, so he will want to end on a high by taking this title again.
“While he will have a tough group game against Novak, Roger will fancy his chances against Dominic Thiem and the debutant Matteo Berrettini. They are pretty good match-ups for Roger, so you’d expect him to get through in the top two depending on how the match with Novak goes.”
Amazon Prime will have live coverage of the ATP Finals from the 02 Arena in London every day from November 10th-17th.
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