Ruud Prevails Over Fritz, Advances To Turin Semifinals

Casper Ruud (photo: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour)

TURIN/WASHINGTON, November 16, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

For all the success that Norway’s Casper Ruud has enjoyed on clay this year – winning three titles on the red dirt in Buenos Aires, Geneva and Gstaad – he has also established himself well on hard courts, too. For the second straight year, Ruud has reached the semifinal round of the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, Italy.

The World No. 4 from Oslo started quickly against eighth-seeded Taylor Fritz of the United States and beat the American 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (6) in a tense, two-hour and 12-minute thriller Tuesday night before another sellout crowd that filled the Pala Alpitour.

“Only a couple of points decide a match like this,” Ruud said in his on-court interview after winning his second match in three days in Turin. “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 semifinals felt great.”

Ruud backed up his earlier 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory over No. 5 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada on Sunday by out-hitting Fritz in their first head-to-head confrontation. Ruud fired 14 aces and struck 36 winners, thanks to winning 76 percent (71 of 93) of his service points. His serve was broken just once in four attempts by Fritz, who countered with 15 aces and 36 winners of his own. Ruud, who broke his opponent once in five tries, outpointed Fritz 95-87 to improve to 2-0 in the Green Group. Fritz now is 1-1.

On Thursday, Ruud will oppose No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal, who is 0-2 in Turin. The Spaniard will enter with his first four-match losing streak since 2009. Meanwhile, Fritz will oppose Auger-Aliassime, who is also 1-1. The winner of that match will also advance to Saturday’s semifinals.

A year ago, Ruud advanced to the last four in Turin only to fall to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev. Now, after struggling to win twice in four tour-level events prior to this week, Ruud has chosen a good time to regain his form.

“I think my movement has been much better in recent weeks,” Ruud explained. “I feel I am moving better now than in the past months. You will face tougher moments in periods of your career when you are heavier in the legs, and they aren’t working. But here in Turin they are working well.

“Every time you feel your movement is good it gives you confidence, knowing you can reach a couple of extra balls.”

Ram and Salisbury improve to 2-0 in Red Group doubles

No. 2 seeds American Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain moved a step closer to the advancing to the Nitto ATP Finals semifinal round after beating sixth-seeded Lloyd Glasspool of Great Britain and Harri Heliovaara of Finland, 7-5, 6-4, in 73 minutes on Tuesday evening to improve to 2-0 in Red Group.

The victory was a milestone for Ram, 38, who garnered his 400thcareer tour-level doubles triumph. He’s the eighth active player with at least 400 career victories.

“It’s a pretty big effort, big milestone,” Salisbury said of Ram’s 400th win. “Congratulations. He’s better than ever, even with the age.”

Salisbury added: “Really happy to get the win. They’re a tough team, we’ve lost to them twice this year. We’re happy with everything we did out there. They’re a strong serving team, didn’t have many chances but we stuck in there and took the chances we had. We were good on serve as well.”

Ram said: “The thing is, they’ve just gotten better and better over the year. We knew we were going to be up against it and we had to bring our best level.”

Ram and Salisbury outpointed their rivals 60-51.

It has been a solid 2022 for the American-British duo, who were finalists in Turin last year They won ATP Masters 1000 titles in Monte Carlo and Cincinnati and also won the US Open crown. They can wrap up a semifinal berth on Thursday with a win over No. 3 seeds Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of El Salvador and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Glasspool and Heliovaara now 1-1 in the Red Group, will play winless No. 7 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina in their final round-robin match.

Tuesday’s Nitto ATP Finals results

Wednesday’s Nitto ATP Finals order of play

Around the Nitto ATP Finals

With Casper Ruud’s victory over Taylor Fritz on Tuesday, which improved his record in group play to 2-0, he became the first semifinalist in this year’s Nitto ATP Finals. His good fortune also meant the elimination of World No. 2 Rafael Nadal (0-2) and it secured  the year-end No. 1 ranking for Carlos Alcaraz. Sidelined from competing in Turin with an abdominal injury, Alcaraz will be at the Pala Alpitour on Wednesday to receive the Year-End ATP No. 1 trophy presented by Pepperstone.

At age 19, Alcaraz, becomes the 18th and youngest No. 1 in the 50 editions of the year-end Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The Spaniard, who finished ranked 32nd in 2021, has achieved the biggest rise to No. 1 from one year-end rankings to another.