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Ricky’s preview and pick for Sunday at the Nitto ATP Finals: Nadal vs. Fritz

Rafael Nadal and Taylor Fritz have already waged a couple of interesting battles in 2022, so it’s only fitting that they meet one more time–at least–in the last tournament of the year. They will headline the opening night session at the Nitto ATP Finals as round-robin competition in the Green Group gets underway on Sunday.

Their first encounter this season came in the Indian Wells final, where both players were less than 100 percent physically and Fritz prevailed 6-3, 7-6(5). Nadal was plagued by injury again in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, but he managed to defeat the American 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(4) before withdrawing prior to the semis. The Spaniard leads the overall head-to-head series 2-1, having previously gotten the job done 6-3, 6-2 in the 2020 Acapulco championship match.

Nadal yet again may not be in peak form with Fritz on the other side of the net. The 22-time Grand Slam champion has played only one match since the U.S. Open because of an abdominal injury, and he lost it in round two of the Paris Masters (6-3, 6-7(4), 6-1 to Tommy Paul). That certainly isn’t ideal preparation heading into an event Nadal has never won in his entire career.

Fritz, on the other hand, has plenty of momentum. The world No. 9 has capped off his best-ever season with a productive fall swing in which he captured the Tokyo title to clinch a spot in the top 10 for the first time. Fritz did not quite qualify for Turin on his own, but the withdrawal of top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz propelled him from first alternate into the prestigious field of eight.

“I think every kid growing up and every player when you first start playing, (reaching the) top 10 is a massive milestone and it’s a dream that you want to tick off,” Fritz said. “Obviously everyone wants to be No. 1 in the world, top five, (and) there is more that I want to achieve. But I’ll always be a top-10 player. That can never be taken away from me.”

The 25-year-old will feel like he belongs in the Nitto ATP Finals–and he does. His season has been an awesome one and would be even better if not for occasional injuries and Wimbledon refusing to award ranking points.

With Nadal likely not at his best and playing a tournament that has given him trouble in the past, this is a great opportunity for Fritz.

Pick: Fritz in 3

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.