Rafael Nadal had to withdraw from the season-ending ATP World Tour finals with a knee injury on Monday after losing 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4 to David Goffin in the opening group match. The World No.1 will now be replaced by first alternate Pablo Carreno Busta who will take his spot in Group Pete Sampras.
Nadal, who had pulled out of the Paris Masters midway because of his knee issue, was visibly in pain again on Monday as he hobbled off at the end of the game. The Spaniard now joins the likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Stan Wawrinka, who are working hard on their rehabilitation to get fully fit for the first major tournament of 2018, the Australian Open in January.
"It's not a [difficult] decision at all -- is about the pain. I cannot hold enough power to keep playing. I tried, but seriously, [it] was [a] miracle to be very close in the score during the match. It really doesn't make sense,” Nadal said in the post-match press conference, reported AFP.
After winning the first set comfortably, the seventh-seeded Belgian star had to break a lot of sweat in the following one as Nadal saved four match points on his racquet to force the game to a decider. In the third set, however, Goffin's persistence paid off. Serving for the match, he hit an ace down the T, his 14th ace of the match to secure a memorable victory over the top-seeded star, who was clearly struggling.
The 16-time Grand Slam winner, who has won 75 tour-level titles including 30 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns, is yet to win a season-ending finale and after pulling out of the latest edition, Nadal admitted that his aspirations to win it at least once might have influenced his decision to play on despite not being in his best physical condition.
"I had the commitment to the event, with the city, with myself. I tried hard. I did the things that I had to do to try to be ready to play. But I am really not ready to play. I really fought a lot during the match, but knowing that [there] probably was a big chance to be the last match of the season.
"[It] was the last event of the season. Another thing will be if that was in the middle of the season or was another kind of event. It's an event I missed too many times in my career. But that's how it works, my career. I can't complain.
"I am probably the top player that had more injuries and more troubles in the careers of everyone, no? Is always about this challenge. But I am used to this and I know what I have to do. I think I am ready to do it."
Now, Nadal will be replaced by his compatriot and first alternate Pablo Carreno Busta, who had to miss out on a spot after Jack Sock surprised everyone by winning the Paris Masters title. The Spanish no. 2, after reaching the US Open semi-finals, has won just one match (in Vienna) in five tournaments played but should look to perform better in the lucky break.