Although Rafael Nadal won’t advance to the ATP Finals semi-finals, he ensured he avoided equalling his worst-ever losing streak with a hard-fought 7-5, 7-5 triumph over Norway’s Casper Ruud on Thursday. The 22-time Grand Slam champion had suffered consecutive straight-sets losses in the Green Group to Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime, eliminating his chances of reaching the semi-finals. Determined not to conclude a season that began impressively with a fifth successive defeat, Nadal, at 36, aimed to end on a positive note, a contrast to his early career struggles in 2004-05.
Although the match against Ruud, already secured a semi-final spot, was essentially a dead rubber, the Pala Alpitour witnessed a spirited first set with Nadal enjoying strong support from the afternoon crowd. Nadal faced challenges at 4-4 in the opening set, fending off break points as Ruud applied pressure. However, Nadal showcased his forehand precision, breaking Ruud’s serve at 5-6 to claim the first set.
The second set unfolded similarly, with both players evenly matched until Nadal seized the opportunity in the 12th game. Although Ruud saved one match point, Nadal ultimately sealed the set with a decisive backhand winner, concluding his season on a positive note. Despite acknowledging his lack of match play and confidence after a challenging six months, Nadal expressed satisfaction with the victory, emphasizing its importance.
While Ruud progresses to the semi-finals, maintaining an 0-8 record against top-three ranked opponents, the day’s later match between debutants Auger-Aliassime and Fritz holds significance, with a semi-final berth at stake.
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