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Improved Nadal ends year in style with win over Ruud at ATP Finals

The world No 2 earned his first win in Turin to end a run of four straight losses

Rafael Nadal ATP Finals forehand AI / Reuters / Panoramic
Nitto ATP Finals •group-stage • completed
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Rafael Nadal ended his year on a winning note as he beat Casper Ruud 7-5, 7-5 on Thursday to claim a victory in his final group match at the ATP Finals.

Already eliminated after defeats in his first two matches to Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime, Nadal hit 16 aces and overall, produced a much-improved performance to beat Ruud, who was already assured of his place in the semi-finals.

Rafael Nadal's Final Match of 2022 vs Casper Ruud | Nitto ATP Finals 2022

“I have been practising well, just probably not enough matches to be at the level I needed to be. Probably not enough condfidence. But at least I finished with in a good way, with a victory. Happy with that.

“I can’t ask for more,” he said. “2022, even if it has been a tough six months, (winning) two Grand Slams (Australian Open and French Open), finishing the year in a high spot in the ranking, can’t complain at all. At my age, to be able to achieve and to be competitive means a lot to me.”

World No 2 Nadal still exits the tournament, having won just one match in the Green Group, but he will do so with a spring in his step as he looks ahead to 2023. Ruud will go through to the semis as the group winner.

Nadal earns morale-boosting win

Nadal had not lost five consecutive matches since 2003-2004, almost two decades ago, but when he missed a forehand to give world No 4 Ruud break point at 4-4 in the opening set, things did not look good.

But a superb deep volley – Nadal attempted to serve and volley on numerous occasions – saved him as a rushed Ruud missed the pass and from that moment on, things picked up.

Nadal forced three break points in the 12th game and only needed one as he thumped a forehand into the backhand corner of the Norwegian, before putting away a simple smash.

Intensity missing from Ruud

Nadal beat Ruud in the final of the French Open last summer, their only previous meeting, and the pair know each other well, with Ruud having trained at the Nadal academy.

Having already qualified for the semi-finals, perhaps the intensity was slightly missing from Ruud and Nadal sensed his chance.

At one stage, Nadal won 16 straight points on serve and he continued to come forwards whenever he made the first ball, never allowing Ruud the time he wanted.

Nadal even managed an entire game of aces, at 4-4 as he continued to serve superbly, the pressure was on Ruud, who buckled again in the 12th game, Nadal rifling a backhand cross court to seal victory.

Ruud goes through to the last four while Nadal goes home, but the Norwegian has now lost all nine matches – and all 20 sets – when he’s played a top-3 player. Something to work on for 2023, or perhaps as soon as this weekend.

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