Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka will clash for the third time this season when they face off in the ATP World Tour Finals on Monday.
While Group Stan Smith commenced singles action on day one of the season finale tournament on Sunday, Group Ilie Nastase will begin their campaigns on Monday.
Andy Murray and David Ferrer will take to the O2 Arena first, earlier on in the day, while Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka will follow and battle it out in the evening.
Neither Nadal or Wawrinka have ever triumphed at the ATP World Tour Finals. In fact Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are the only active players this week who have previously won the title.
Nadal is a two-time former finalist (2010, 2013), while he has reached the semi-finals on a further two occasions. He has also only missed out on advancing beyond the round robin stage twice, but he has not missed out since 2011 (2009 and ’11). Meanwhile, Wawrinka made his debut at the season finale more recently, in 2013, and he has managed to reach the semi-finals consistently for the past two years.
Nadal’s injury and illness struggles have been well publicised over the past 12-24 months and he was of course absent from the ATP World Tour Finals last year. However, he has seemed to have overcome his vulnerability somewhat late in the season amid a late resurgence. Most recently he reached two finals - one on the hard courts at the China Open and the other at the Swiss Indoors Basel - as well as also reaching the Shanghai semi-finals and the Paris quarterfinals.
“I didn’t have injuries during the whole season. I had injuries last year, not this year. I always thought that I would qualify for London but there’s always a chance you won’t,” Nadal said.
Rafael Nadal of Spain in a practice session during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals (Julian Finney/Getty Images)
But similarly Wawrinka has also been successful in the latter half of the season - as well as the early stages. The Swiss won the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships last month and he also subsequently reached the Shanghai quarterfinals and the Paris semi-finals. Furthermore, while Nadal missed the London event last year, Wawrinka in fact came within one point of reaching the final against Djokovic.
There is no doubt he will enter this match as the favourite ahead of Nadal. He has defeated the Spaniard twice already this year, including once on his beloved clay at the Rome Masters, as well as on the indoor hard courts in Paris. Nadal did however storm to the straight set 6-2, 6-1 victory in Shanghai, but regardless of the result, it’s unlikely to be as one sided of a score line in this meeting.
The ATP World Tour Finals is the biggest title Nadal is yet to prevail at. Wawrinka may also be his toughest rival in Group Ille Nastase and an upset victory in London could certainly go a long way for his confidence not only this week, but carried into the 2016 season.
“At the end of the day it’s good news to be here as No. 5 in the world. After a tough year, if you’re able to arrive at this tournament with that number that says that the level is still there,” Nadal said previewing his tournament.
“I need to keep playing the way that I’m playing the last month and a half. I think like this I’m going to be in a good position.”
He added: “Every time I come here I arrive with motivation to try my best. This year is not an exception even if it was not an ideal season for me. I’m here to keep fighting as I did the last tournaments and I had the motivation to do it.”
Nadal v Wawrinka are scheduled on O2 Arena, Prague at 8:00pm GMT.