Nadal is battling to be ready for the ATP Finals (Picture: Getty)

Rafael Nadal’s fight to be fit for the ATP Finals goes on, but there were signs of dramatic improvement over the weekend.

The world No. 1 has the maximum time available to reach full physical fitness after his opener against Alexander Zverev was placed in the latest possible match slot but there were concerning signs during a practice session on Friday night.

While his striking off the ground looked uninhibited by the abdominal injury that forced him out of the Paris Masters semi-finals – although there were plenty of miscues, perhaps owing to the court speed, which is notably quicker by most accounts – the serve was the main area of concern.

Nadal is working hard to reach the finals (Picture: Getty)

On Friday evening, it looked highly unlikely he would compete.

Serves that would be more befitting of a lower-league local club player were rolled in tentatively to hitting partner Matteo Berrettini, with Nadal clearly anxious to test a full service motion. That said, there were no obvious signs of physical distress.

Come Saturday afternoon and the picture looked far brighter for Nadal.

His regular service action had returned and after he’d fully warmed up, serves were fired down at Dominic Thiem somewhere close to full pace (without the benefit of a speed gun to give precise figures).

He spent at least 10 minutes of the session serving full pelt to start points against Thiem, with the Austrian simultaneously working on his return.

Both were left breathing heavily after some lung-busting exchanges, with Thiem probably edging proceedings.

Nadal smiles on in practice (Picture: Getty Images)

After one particularly outrageous forehand passing winner from a position out wide, Austria’s world No. 5 shouted to the other side of the court, ‘Like you!!!’ in reference to one of Nadal’s trademark shots.

Nadal has stressed he would need to be ‘100% ready’ in order to compete at the eight-man season-ending event and time remains at a premium in order to achieve that result.

But given the difference between practices on Friday and Saturday, there’s a greater sense of encouragement that he will be ready to enter battle for the year-end No. 1 spot with Novak Djokovic.



Multiple ATP Finals winners

6 – Federer
5 – Djokovic
5 – Lendl
5 – Sampras
4 – Nastase
3 – Becker
3 – McEnroe
2 – Borg
2 – Hewitt

Nadal has a 640-point lead heading into the event and can take matters out of Djokovic’s hands by reaching the final having won every group stage match.

‘I’d love to be equal with Roger [Federer] and with Novak with the five year-end No. 1 spot for the end of the year. It would be something fantastic for me but honestly I can’t complain,’ Nadal said at Friday’s group press conferences.

‘I need to be focused with my real goal. The goal is to put me in a position to play 100%. If that happens my goals will be very different.’

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