Rafael Nadal’s dramatic withdrawal from the ATP Finals in London leaves Roger Federer as the only megastar standing at a tournament now looking seriously short of star power.
The Spanish world number one produced an astonishing never-say-die performance in his opening round-robin match at the O2 Arena late on Monday despite obvious discomfort, digging deep to save four match points before eventually succumbing to a tenacious David Goffin.
With Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray sidelined through injury, Federer is the only genuine star left in London and is the clear favourite to lift his seventh year-end title at the grand old age of 36.
For all the showbiz vibe at the event, the numbers do not lie – all the remaining competitors at the tournament have a single Grand Slam title between them, compared to Federer’s haul of 19.
Nadal, who pulled out of the Paris Masters this month with a knee injury, said it was a “miracle” that he stayed so close to Goffin during his 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (4/7), 6-4 defeat, insisting he had done all he could.
“My season is finished,” the Spaniard said. “Yeah, I had the 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. But I am really not ready to play.”
“Is about the pain,” Nadal added. “I cannot hold with 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.”
The Spaniard, who will be replaced in the event by his compatriot and world number 10 Pablo Carreno Busta, said he hopes to be ready for the start of the 2018 season.
“I am, of course, disappointed,” he said. “But I am not going to cry. I had a great season. I really appreciate all the things that happened to me during the whole season. Thanks life for this unforgettable one.
“I am going to work hard to try to give me more chances the next season to keep being at the top and fighting for the most important things.”
Nadal has had a remarkable year after missing a significant chunk of 2016 through injury, winning a 10th French Open title, cruising to victory at the US Open and regaining the world number one spot.