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Page last updated at 22:57 GMT, Monday, 22 November 2010

Nadal holds on to defeat Roddick

ATP World Tour Finals
Venue: O2 Arena, London Dates: 21-28 November
Coverage: One match each day live on BBC TV, streamed online & available through iPlayer; text commentary online and on mobiles for every singles match via BBC Sport website; every singles match live on 5 live sports extra.

Rafael Nadal
Nadal fought back after struggling in the opening set

By Piers Newbery at the O2 Arena

World number one Rafael Nadal secured his first win at the O2 Arena in dramatic style as he battled past Andy Roddick in three pulsating sets.

The Spaniard failed to win a set in three matches when the end-of-season championships made its debut in London last year, and that run looked set to continue when he trailed Roddick by a set and a break after struggling to find his form early on.

But roared on by the capacity 17,500 crowd packed in for Monday's night match, Nadal fought back to win 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 and set up an enticing Group A clash with Novak Djokovic on Wednesday.

It was tough on Roddick but the American can take heart from a stirring display that bodes well for his chances of making the weekend.

Djokovic had beaten Tomas Berdych in a low-key affair earlier in the day, but the arrival of the world number one for the evening session electrified the O2 Arena.

606: COMMENT

For a man who has enjoyed one of the all-time great years in tennis, and proved beyond doubt that he is the best player in the world, there were a surprising number of questions surrounding Nadal ahead of his second appearance at the London showpiece.

Twelve months ago he had departed soundly beaten and exhausted, raising concerns in some quarters over his future in the game, but this year Nadal has responded by collecting the French Open, Wimbledon and - to complete his personal Grand Slam set - the US Open.

It remains a considerable challenge for Nadal to beat his seven closest rivals indoors, however, and the fact that a shoulder problem meant he had not played a match in five weeks before facing Roddick gave further reason to doubt him.

There was not much uncertainty among the thousands of Nadal supporters at the O2 on Monday night though - the Spaniard's status as a star beyond tennis was confirmed with a reception fit for a rock star - and the slow court conditions were also expected to favour the top seed.

Roddick was having none of it, however, the 28-year-old's serve appearing as venomous as ever when he saw off two break points in the opening game, before Nadal gifted him a break with two double-faults in game two.

With the adrenaline flowing, Roddick blasted three successive aces in game three, drawing a few gasps as one flew past Nadal at 141mph, and a magical half-volley at 4-2 was just one of the highlights as the American saw out one of his best sets of the year.

Andy Roddick
American Roddick stuttered after a blistering start

Roddick had beaten Nadal in their last meeting in Indian Wells and another victory became a very real possibility when he broke first in the second set, setting up the chance with a fizzing forehand and converting with a backhand at the Spaniard's body.

The advantage was fleeting, though, as a twitchy Roddick double-faulted at 30-30 in the following game before blazing a forehand wide to make it 2-2, and both men then put up the defences behind some solid serving to force a tie-break.

Roddick again had a glimpse of the finish line when he led 3-2 with a break, but Nadal hit straight back and then played his best shot of the night with a blistering cross-court backhand return to move 4-3 ahead, punching the air moments later when he finally secured his first set at the O2.

There was a sense of inevitability as the final set progressed that the nine-time Grand Slam champion would get his man, and so it proved.

Five weeks without playing and playing against the best players of the world on the most difficult surface for me, the first match will always be difficult

Rafael Nadal

Roddick was still gamely following his first serve into the net but now Nadal had found his range and was firing returns at his feet before attacking the second ball, and it was that one-two punch that earned the Spaniard the decisive break at 3-2.

After more than two and-a-half hours of play, Nadal's early struggles were long forgotten as he ruthlessly served out a victory that clearly meant a lot to him, and banished any thoughts that this might be one title he would not seriously challenge for.

"Finally to win a match here is very important for me," a relieved Nadal said. "I can play with a little bit more calm in the next match.

"I was a little bit lucky. I started the match a little bit nervous. Five weeks without playing and playing against the best players of the world on the most difficult surface for me, the first match will always be difficult."

It was Roddick's first match at the O2 after he was forced out of last year's tournament with a knee injury and he was impressed with the atmosphere at the London venue.

"I thought it was great," he said. "I think we're glad we put a really good product out there tonight. Up until now I don't feel like two players have played well at the same time during a match. It was fun playing tonight.

"I came out of the gates aggressively and I think it caught him by surprise. He definitely wasn't settled comfortably. He was missing more balls than normal.

"I think the difference was he found his range on his forehand in the second and third sets. It hinged on the breaker. I thought I played well tonight."



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see also
Nadal v Roddick as it happened
22 Nov 10 |  Tennis
ATP World Tour Finals photos
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Superb Djokovic crushes Berdych
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Djokovic v Berdych as it happened
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Federer opens with Ferrer victory
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Murray downs Soderling in opener
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The contenders
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Roddick completes London line-up
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BBC to broadcast ATP Finals event
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Davydenko takes World Tour title
29 Nov 09 |  Tennis


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