Nadal pulls out of ATP finals

Grigor Dimitrov or David Goffin

Nadal, 31, struggled to find his range early in front of a raucous crowd rooting for him and was broken twice in the first set by the Belgian seventh seed, who had lost their previous two encounters. "I fought a lot knowing it was my last match of the season", said the world number one, who had also quit midway through the Paris Masters tournament two weeks ago, Marca reported.

In the pair's most recent meeting, in Madrid, Thiem won after saving five match points and it appeared another remarkable escape might be on the cards.

In his career, Thiem's a sub-500 hard court player, but last year in London, he captured his first victory in London over Gael Monfils and even took a set off Novak Djokovic.

"My commitment was to try".

"Is about the pain", he added. Thiem's loss to Juan Martin del Potro in the fourth round where he was up two sets to love against the flu-ridden Argentine, is something he has not recovered from since then.

"I know what I have to do", he said. I know the periods of time that I need to work. Then if the treatment works or not, we will see.

The second set went with serve until the eighth game, when Goffin broke to earn a chance to serve for the match, only for Nadal to break back.

Grigor Dimitrov earns battling victory over Dominic Thiem on ATP Finals debut

The sixth-ranked Dimitrov maintained his focus despite being narrowly denied a chance to serve out the match in the second set, and then being broken at his first chance in the third. "Rafa is one of the strongest players mentally on the tour".

"It was tough even if he was not moving 100 percent", Goffin said. "Also because it's your first match, it's against a really, really good opponent, so you're very tense".

Nadal's withdrawal leaves Roger Federer as the only headliner standing in a tournament now looking seriously short of star power. "I kept going in the third". "It is so special to do it here".

Nadal has won 75 singles titles in his illustrious career, including 16 Grand Slams and 30 Masters events but he has yet to triumph at the ATP Finals, played on quick indoor courts rather than his favoured clay.

Nadal's shock exit has blown the season-ending showpiece wide open and came after Grigor Dimitrov beat Dominic Thiem 6-3 5-7 7-5 in an equally thrilling opening clash in the Pete Sampras Group at London's O2 arena.

The ATP Finals feature the top eight fit male singles players and doubles teams that have accrued points throughout the 2017 season.

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