The right knee of Rafael Nadal could prove pivotal to the success of the ATP World Tour Finals in London this week.
With Andy Murray absent with his ongoing hip injury, tournament bosses would like nothing more than a final between tennis’s two renaissance men of 2017, Roger Federer and Nadal.
While Federer looked refreshed as he came through unscathed against Jack Sock in his opening-round robin match on Sunday, the Nadal camp remain unsure how his knee will hold up to the rigours of another tournament.
However, Nadal is relishing the prospect of a fourth final in 2017 between the pair but is aware Federer has won all three — Australia, Miami and Shanghai — and the Spaniard has to go back to 2014 for his last victory in their 38 career encounters on court.
“To beat Roger, you have to be in good confidence and I’ve won enough to have confidence,” said Nadal, who boasts 23 victories to Federer’s 15 between the pair.
“If I play him in the final to finish the year, it’s great to have another chance. We’ve played on surfaces he likes more than me. If I’m healthy enough, I hope to have more chances.”
First for Nadal is David Goffin, who has bounced back from a freak injury tripping on tarpaulin at the French Open to force his way to London with recent titles in Shenzhen and Japan.
Regardless of how his knee holds up at a tournament for which he has qualified for 13 times but has never won, the year-ending world No1 spot is assured. To have made it back to the summit after a litany of injury problems has taken him by surprise.
“A year ago it was not in my mind to be in this position [as No1],” he said. “The most important thing is to finish the year in the best way possible.”
The mind is willing, on Monday night at the O2 he will find out if his body is, too.