The Rolex Paris Masters has een denied the final which everyone wanted, namely an on-court confrontation between the two top players in the world. Both were on track only for the wheels to come of for one of the combatants.
It's a super sad moment for me. I have been enjoying a lot during the whole tournament, having fun on court Rafa Nadal
Minutes before he was due on court Rafa Nadal, the world number two, announced that he was withdrawing with an abdominal injury which he had only picked up during the morning’s practice session thereby giving Denis Shapovalov, the exciting Canadian youngster, his first appearance in a Masters final.
There he will face the current world number one, Novak Djokovic.
“It’s a super sad moment for me,” Nadal said. “I have been enjoying a lot during the whole tournament, having fun on court…
“(I was) in a round that put me in a position that I was fighting for big things here.”
But for the injury, which now also raises doubts as to his appearance at the O2 on November 10, he loses out on a chance of winning the Bercy title for the first time and improve his record of tournaments won indoors to three, as well as jeopardising his chances of ending the year at the top of the world rankings.
“I will do all I can do and all what’s possible to recover for it,” he said when asked about the Nitto ATP Finals. “But as you can expect, today I can’t answer this question.”
If Nadal does not recover in time for London, where he has also never won the title, it would be a disappointing end to a strong season which has seen him claim a record-extending 12th French Open title and the US Open crown.
The 33-year-old has battled multiple injuries throughout his career and also pulled out of the Paris Masters on his last appearance in 2017 having made the round of 16.
Nadal felt the injury during practice and after medical tests revealed the strain before a further warm-up, he decided not to play as advised by the doctor.
“I think that abdominal doesn’t allow me to serve at the level that I need to serve to be competitive,” he explained during his press conference following his announcement.
“When there is a strain in a muscle, that is making a lot of effort in every single serve, so the chance to increase that problem is big.
“I went through that in the past, so that’s why the recommendation of the doctors has been to not play.”
He has one consolation. The Spaniard will leapfrog Djokovic int the No.1 spot on Monday but he needs to recover for the O2 in order to hang on to it. Victory there for either of them, will seal that coveted prize of being world number one at the end of a season.
Earlier in the day, Djokovic had reached the final with a 7-6(5) 6-4 victory over Grigor Dimitrov who is certainly ending his season on a high.
With the inexperienced 20-year-old Shapovalov, facing him on the Canadian’s Masters debut, the Serbian – who has beaten him in their three previous meetings – looks set to collect his fifth title at Bercy and move to within one of Nadal on the all-time Masters winners’ list with his 34th at that level.
Dimitrov didn’t make it easy for him in the semi-final clash. The Bulgarian, a former top-tenner who was ranked 78 at the start of the US Open, has rediscovered his form as his appearance in the last four at Bercy would confirm.
He matched Djokovic throughout the first set only the Serb to come through a dramatic first-set tie-break.
“The first set, he played better,” said Djokovic after making it into his 50th Masters final. “It was played at a really high level. The atmosphere was incredible, especially in the tie-break.”
Dimitrov started strongly on serve, showing the form that had taken him through the last three rounds without dropping a set, but could not force a break point as the opening set went to a tie-break.
The 28-year-old claimed a mini-break to lead 5-4, but then powered a simple volley into the tramlines after a 32-shot rally.
Djokovic claimed a one-set advantage after a brilliant 35-shot exchange on his first set point that ended with Dimitrov sending a backhand spinning long.
World number 27 Dimitrov, playing in his first Masters semi-final since losing to Nadal in Monte Carlo last year, appeared to have regained his composure at the start of the second set, but was broken in the fifth game as Djokovic closed in on victory.
Dimitrov managed to force his opponent to serve for a place in the final, but Djokovic did just that with his second straight hold to love.