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    • #5596
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      It may have been a far cry from his swashbuckling wins earlier in the week at the World Tour Finals, but Rafael Nadal gave his confidence another timely top-up going into his semifinal against Novak Djokovic.

      With his place in the last four already secured, Nadal overcame a flat start to fight back from a set down against David Ferrer and finish 3-0 in the group stages. He edged his compatriot 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-4 in a battle that lasted over two and a half hours.

      World No.5 Nadal had served notice that he looks to be returning to top form after dispatching Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray in straight sets in London — it was the first time he has beaten two top-four players in a tournament since Rome in 2013.

      But the 14-time grand slam winner will take a different type of encouragement from the battling spirit he showed in seeing off his tenacious fellow Spaniard. Ferrer may have been playing solely for pride after losing his first two matches here, but he was previously unbeaten in 43 matches in 2015 after winning the first set.

      Next comes chapter 46 of an intense rivalry with Djokovic, with Nadal a whisker in front at 23-22. But the Serb has won all three matches this year, including the Beijing final in straight sets last month.

      “That's another step. A really difficult match against a player who is playing just better, impossible I believe,” Nadal said in his press conference. “I need to play my best to have any chance. That's what I going to try.

      “But the right work is done. Lot of positive things during the last weeks. Very good confirmation this week. So tomorrow is another opportunity to compete against the best, to see if I am able to compete at a very high level again.”

      It has been a season largely plagued by self-doubts for Nadal, having fallen to No.10 in June for the first time since 2005 and suffered the most losses (19) in a single campaign in his 14-year career.

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