Taylor Fritz stunned Rafa Nadal 7-6(3), 6-1 to make a winning debut at the ATP Finals in Turin.
Spanish top seed Nadal arrived in Italy having only competed in one singles match since his fourth-round US Open loss two months ago and his lack of recent competition showed as he was unable to keep pace with Fritz as the match wore on.
“I need more matches to play at this kind of level, even if I am practising well, much better than how I am competing, without a doubt. That’s normal,” Nadal told reporters.
“At the end is not the ideal tournament and probably part of the season to come back after a couple of months without being on the tour because you don’t have time to get confidence.”
Nadal grabbed a 6-5 lead in the opening set when he held to love for a fifth time but then lost the opening three points of the tiebreaker and could not find his way back.
After neither player dropped serve in the first set, Fritz broke early in the second for a 3-1 lead and again to pull ahead 5-1 before closing out the match on his next service game when Nadal sent a forehand long.
“Once I got through that first set I just wanted to do the same thing I was doing for the second set: take care of my serve and just look to capitalise on the break points when I got them,” Fritz said in his on-court interview.
“I knew coming out here this was going to be a big match if I want to make it out of the group, it’s a really important one.”
For Fritz, the victory marked his first over a top-three opponent in 12 attempts and improved him to 2-2 in head-to-head meetings with Nadal having beaten him at Indian Wells in March.