Rafael Nadal did not waste much time in reminding people that his poor record against Roger Federer this year is closely connected to the surfaces on which they have met.
As the two rivals prepared for Sunday’s start of the Nitto ATP Finals at London’s O2 Arena, world No 1 Nadal did so while nursing a 0-4 record this season against the 36-year-old Swiss. All four of those defeats were on hard courts, Federer having skipped the clay season.
They are in different groups for the round-robin event but could meet in the semis or the final, assuming the Spaniard’s knee and form can hold up at one of the few tournaments he has not won in his career.
‘I don’t need to beat Roger to be in good confidence,’ said Nadal, who leads their career series 23-15. ‘I won enough (in the past) to have enough confidence.
‘If I play against him here, it would be great to finish the year playing against him again and to give myself another chance.
‘You cannot forget that we played all the time (this year) on surfaces that he likes more than me. I just have to accept that and find different ways to approach the match. If that happens and I am healthy enough, I hope to have my chances.’
Nadal will be presented with the year-end No 1 trophy tomorrow afternoon following the opener which sees Federer face surprise American qualifier Jack Sock.
The Spaniard has always been frustrated by the fact that the year-end finals (open to the season’s top eight performers) are only played on hard courts and never rotated to his preferred clay.
Of his relatively modest record here he said: ‘It’s true that it’s always in my mind, but at the same time it’s also in my mind that I have qualified 13 times and have never played on a different surface from this one.’
He did, however, reassure fans that he intends to play, despite recent knee troubles.
‘If I didn’t believe I would not be ready for Monday I wouldn’t be here,’ said the 31-year-old, while admitting he had slightly scaled back his practice.
Federer left open the chance that he would once more miss the clay next season in 2018.
‘Everything is on the table. I’ve just got to be very cautious about my decision-making,’ said the world No 2, who added that the decision would be heavily influenced by his support team.