Berdych keeps his hopes of a semifinal spot alive

The year dawned with a cloud hanging over Rafael Nadal’s career but will end with him on top of the world after a win over Stanislas Wawrinka at the ATP World Tour Finals on Wednesday that illustrated why he is in the pantheon of tennis greats.

He has certainly played better during a sensational season that began in February after a seven-month injury layoff, but the way he soaked up everything the Swiss could muster to complete a 7-6(5), 7-6(6) victory underlined Nadal’s almost fanatical refusal to be beaten.

Wawrinka walked off the cavernous showcourt wondering how he is yet to take a set off Nadal in 12 meetings, but it would be a harsh judge who criticised the world No. 8 for failing to convert the fleeting chance that came and went in the second-set tiebreak.

He was within a whisker of taking a high-calibre opener too, but Nadal, as he has in winning 74 matches in a spectacular season of almost total dominance on all surfaces, proved armour-plated in defence and ruthless when invited to attack.

Only blemish

“Today was more important to secure the number one (ranking),” Nadal, whose only blemish so far in London was a warning for slow play.

Wawrinka hit twice as many winners as Nadal and won more points, but when it mattered most, Nadal proved why he is one of the hardest men to put away.

When the Swiss broke Nadal’s serve with an exquisite forehand winner to level the first set at 5-5 and then nosed 6-5 ahead, the momentum had shifted his way.

At 5-5 in the tiebreak Wawrinka had his foe pinned against the ropes, but somehow the Spaniard extricated himself with a desperate lob that forced a rash error from his opponent.

When Wawrinka stumbled on the next point, Nadal darted in to swat away a forehand.

Stirring fightback

Losing a 25th consecutive set to Nadal left Wawrinka staring at the equivalent of a sheer Swiss rock face, but he launched a stirring fightback from 4-1 down in the second only to see Nadal save a set point with a powerful smash.

All is not lost for Wawrinka, who can still qualify for the semifinals if he beats David Ferrer on Friday, providing Tomas Berdych does not beat Nadal in the final group games.

Ferrer loses

Berdych kept his hopes of a semifinal spot alive with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Ferrer, who looked weary after seven consecutive weeks on the road.

Berdych had lost his opening Group A match against Stanislas Wawrinka on Monday, but gave himself a shot at making the last four of the season-ending event by sweeping aside world No. 3 Ferrer in one hour and 23 minutes at London’s O2 Arena.

To have a chance of qualifying, the Czech fifth seed must now defeat world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.

The results: Singles: Group A: Rafael Nadal bt Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6(5), 7-6(6); Tomas Berdych bt David Ferrer 6-4, 6-4.

Doubles: Group B: Alexander Peya / Bruno Soares bt Marcel Granollers / Marc Lopez 3-6, 6-4, 10-5.

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