Casper Ruud beats Taylor Fritz to ring death knell for Rafael Nadal’s ATP Finals and year-end No 1 hopes
Casper Ruud’s victory over Taylor Fritz dealt a fatal to Rafael Nadal’s hopes of winning a maiden ATP Finals trophy and finishing the year as the world No 1.
The Norwegian claimed a three-set win over Fritz to secure his place in the semi-finals of the season-ending tournament in Turin, but the result had major ramifications for Nadal.
Ruud’s victory means Nadal can no longer qualify for the last four from the Green Group and, as a result, he can also no longer overtake Carlos Alcaraz in the ATP Rankings and claim the year-end No 1 spot.
But for Ruud, the 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (8-6) win in two-hours and 12 minute helped him to reach the knockout round for the second consecutive season while Fritz has to beat Felix Auger-Aliassime in his final round-robin match to qualify for the semis.
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After breaking in game two, the Norwegian controlled the rest of the opening set. Fritz drew level as he took it to a decider with a break in game 10 of the second set.
The third set went according to serve before Ruud got two early mini breaks and he had two match points at 6-4, but the American saved both. However, a third break gave him a third match point and this time he made no mistake.
“Only a couple of points decide a match like this,” the third seed said. “Fortunately for me, they went my way at the end. I was 5/1 up in the tie-break and he turned it around. He played some great points and hit some incredible winners to come back to 6/6. I hesitated a little bit at 6/4, but that is normal.
“There was a lot at stake… I am sad for Taylor, but I was so happy to see that last forehand sail long.”
Ruud, who will face the already-eliminated Nadal in his final group match on Thursday, has already had an impressive season as he finished runner-up to Nadal at the French Open and to Alcaraz at the US Open and he could finish the year at No 2 in the rankings if he goes on to win the title.
“It feels great to sit here knowing that I’ve qualified for the semi-final, which was a goal for probably everyone playing here. I’m the first one to do it, so that feels great,” he added.
“It’s one of my best serving matches, serve performances, in my career. The court is pretty fast, so it gives me more free points than usual with the serve, a little bit extra speed.”
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