Rafael Nadal marked his return to the ATP World Tour Finals with a fine showing to defeat world number four Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets at the O2 Arena in London. The 29-year-old was at his imperious best in winning 6-3 6-2 to set up a meeting on Wednesday [18 November] with Andy Murray.
Wawrinka cut a dejected and frustrated figure for long periods; becoming incensed with an own error-strewn display coupled with his opponents' time wasting tactics. Nadal meanwhile continued his recent renaissance to provide the surprise result of the round robin phase so far.
Following three straight set wins for the top three players in the world, the tournament was already desperate for a contest befitting of the occasion after barely two days of action. However, following a series of close recent encounters there were high hopes Wawrinka and Nadal could belatedly ignite the singles competition.
Nine successive points against the serve set the tone for the evening ahead, with both players returning well but showing plenty of frustration when attempting to take the initiative. Nadal settled the quickest to break the streak before a combination of the Spaniard's trademark forehand and time wasting left Wawrinka exacerbated and saw the set swing decisively the nine-time French Open champion's way.
Nadal took the third of three break point chances in game eight to take a 5-3 lead and as Wawrinka continued to bemoan his fortunes and tactics of his opponent, he went a set behind. The two-time grand slam champion kept himself alive in the match by saving a remarkable seven break points in the opening game of the second set as he threw caution to the wind in an attempt to inspire a comeback.
Though Nadal was denied more break chances would come his way in the next Wawrinka service game and it took a double fault for the twice runner-up at the season-ending tour finals to grab the lead. That advantage was doubled after another gruelling game as Nadal appeared to suck the life out of an increasingly incensed Wawrinka.
Wawrinka produced a brief repost with a cross-court backhand to hold at 2-5 in the second, but little could prevent Nadal from powering to victory. The Swiss concluded a lacklustre performance with a long forehand to sum up a dreary evening and leave his hopes in the English capital hanging by a thread.