Just Ruud – Norwegian first to book ATP Finals semis spot
NORWEGIAN third seed Casper Ruud became the first player through to the ATP Finals last four after overcoming American Taylor Fritz on day three of the event in Torino, Italy. Ruud backed up his victory over the in-form Felix Auger-Aliassime courtesy of a nail-biting three-setter, eventually closing out the contest in two hours and 12 minutes, 6-3 4-6 7-6.
Ruud looked on track to book his place in the semi-finals early, taking out the first set 6-3, before Fritz hit back with an early break of serve in the second set. Though the third seed remained strong saving three break points later in the set, it would not be enough, as he could not create a break point opportunity himself. In that second set, Fritz won 20 of 24 points off his serve, and was clinical, while Ruud struggled off his second serve, winning just 36 per cent of his points.
Both players were evenly matched in the decider, with the pair continuing their strong first serve success rate. Ruud only dropped two points off his first serve and five in total, not having to face a break point in the set. Fritz faced two but saved both, and was able to scrounge well off his second serve (50 per cent success).
For the entire match, Fritz served up one more ace (15-14), while not serving a double fault, but Ruud’s first serve success rate of 88 per cent marginally shaded Fritz’s 87 per cent, but also served at a far higher efficiency of 70 to 62 per cent. The win ensured Ruud’s place in the semi-finals, having beaten the two other players who can fill the other spot.
“Only a couple of points decide a match like this,” Ruud said post-match. “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. To book my place in the semi-finals felt great.”
In the other match, Canadian fifth seed Auger-Aliassime ended world number two Rafael Nadal‘s hopes of not only a maiden ATP Finals title, but the end of year world number one ranking. Auger-Aliassime won 6-3 6-4 against the Spaniard, meaning Nadal is now eliminated from the ATP Finals race, also handing the number one ranking spot to injured countryman, Carlos Alcaraz.
“I think having one match here, I got used to the conditions on centre court,” Auger-Aliassime said post-match. “It helped me a lot. I felt my game was better today. My serve was great and return and backhand was much better. I was hitting it with my more consistency and quality. When I am playing like this, I have proven I can compete and beat some of the best players in the world.”
While Nadal is eliminated, the Spaniard will take on Ruud in the final group match. In the other contest, the winner of Fritz and Auger-Aliassime will determine which North American will advance through to the next stage.