Rafael Nadal produced an incredible fightback to beat Russian Daniil Medvedev and keep his ATP Finals hopes alive on Wednesday 11-13-2019, saving a match point at 1-5 down in the decider before winning 6-7, 6-3, 7-6.
The 33-year-old looked beaten as 23-year-old debutant Medvedev broke serve twice in the decider to stand on the brink of a first career victory over the Spaniard he pushed to five sets in an epic US Open final in September.
For once world No 1 Nadal's trademark fighting spirit seemed to have deserted him but he saved a match point at 1-5 with a superb drop shot and was suddenly re-energised.
Twice Medvedev served for the match, at 5-2 and 5-4, but he tightened up and Nadal, roared on by the 02 Arena crowd, needed no second invitation to take advantage.
Nadal edged ahead when he held serve at 5-5 and when Medvedev trailed 0-30 in the next game it appeared the Russian was now a spent force.
Medvedev regained his composure in the nick of time to hold serve with an ace and take the match into a deciding set tiebreak and looked dangerous again.
Yet he missed a forehand with the court gaping after a long rally at 4-5 to give Nadal two match points.
Medvedev thought he had saved the first one with a backhand winner but it was called out and his Hawkeye challenge showed the ball had missed the line by a fraction.
The Spaniard has qualified 15 straight times for the ATP Finals but has never clinched the title, won a record six times by Roger Federer and five times by Novak Djokovic.
Nadal said: "Honestly, I've been super lucky. Sorry for Daniil, that's a tough loss, he was playing much better than me in the third set but this was one of those one in 1,000 that you win.
"At 5-3 when you have the first break [back], then you are only one break away, and I know from personal experience how tough it is to close out matches.
"From that moment I thought I can have a chance. I played much better today than two days ago, so that is a big positive for me."
The win means Djokovic has to win the title in order to have any chance of overhauling Nadal at the top of the rankings.
In the evening match on Wednesday the two youngest players in the top 10 of the ATP rankings square off, with Stefanos Tsitsipas, 21, taking on defending champion Alexander Zverev, who is 22.
Zverev beat Nadal on Monday for his third consecutive victory at the eight-man ATP Finals against the "Big Three", dating back to last year's tournament. Tsitsipas beat Medvedev for the first time in his career.
Dominic Thiem has already secured one of the qualification spots in Group Bjorn Borg, leaving Federer and Djokovic to scrap it out on Thursday for the remaining place from the four-man pool.