Nadal Goes Out With A Win, Finishes Season On Positive Note With Turin Victory

Rafael Nadal (photo: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour)

TURIN/WASHINGTON, November 17, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Rafael Nadal ended his 2022 season the same he started it 11 months ago – with a win, a useful and purposeful triumph. The 36-year-old Spaniard served well and showed a sense of purpose.

On Thursday afternoon, after already being eliminated from advancing beyond group stage at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, Italy, the top-seeded Nadal played for pride. He knew a victory over No. 3 seed Casper Ruud, whom he leads in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for year-end No. 2, would boost his standing.

Nadal, who came in on a four-match losing streak for just the third time in his career, raised his level and turned things around with an encouraging display full of clean ball striking against Ruud, who had already qualified for the semifinals with two earlier wins. He beat the World No. 3 from Norway, 7-5, 7-5, in an hour and 42 minutes at the Pala Alpitour to finish the week 1-2.

Nadal hit 16 aces and 37 winners overall to 19 winners for Ruud and won a remarkable 93 percent (38 of 41) of his first-serve points. He saved both break points he faced and converted two of the three break-point chances he had against Ruud, both coming at the end of each set. Nadal outpointed Ruud 73-54.

“I have been practicing well,” Nadal said in his on-court interview afterward. “Just probably not enough matches to be at the level that I needed to be. Not enough confidence, probably, after six tough months. That’s how it is. I accept that the season didn’t end the way that I wanted, [but] at least I finished with a positive victory.

“It’s important, the last official match of the season, so I am happy for that. At the end, I am happy about that. … I was able to win against a great player.”

Nadal, who started the season with a 20-match winning streak and won four tour-level titles, including two majors at the Australian Open and French Open, closed the book on 2022 with a 39-8 tour-level win-loss record. Meanwhile, Ruud (2-1 at the Nitto ATP Finals), who dropped to 0-8 lifetime against Top-3 opponents, moves on to the semifinals for the second straight year. The other Green Group spot will be decided Thursday night when No. 5 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada faces American eighth-seed Taylor Fritz. Both are 1-1.

“I can’t ask for more,” Nadal said. “2022 has had a tough six months, two Grand Slams, and finishing the year in a high spot in the rankings. So, I can’t complain at all. At my age, to be able to achieve and be competitive means a lot for me.

“For 2023, just let’s try to have the right preparation, work the proper way and start the season with the right energy, the right attitude, to reach the level that I need to be competitive from the beginning. Let’s try it, I am excited about it.”

Glasspool and Heliovaara win quickly and advance to semifinals

Great Britain’s Lloyd Glasspool and Harri Heliovaara of Finland booked their place in the Nitto ATP Finals semifinal round Thursday afternoon – and they wasting little time in doing so.

To be exact, the sixth-seeded British-Finnish tandem (2-1) needed just 59 minutes to beat winless Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, 6-0, 6-4. They saved all five break points they faced and played both ruthless and nervy tennis. It was their second win in Red Group play this week in their Turin debut.

“It feels very, very, very good,” said Heliovaara, whose team was the second to qualify for the semifinal stage. “You saw the celebrations at the end. We played an amazing match. I don’t think we could have played any better in the first set and then we kept going. What a dream.”

Glasspool added: “It just shows how much hard work we have put in. It is really nice to have it pay off as it doesn’t always pay off. it is amazing to be able to play our best stuff on the biggest stage.”

Earlier this season, Glasspool and Heliovaara (47-26) won their first career ATP 500 title together in Hamburg and reached the finals in six other events.

Meanwhile, No. 2 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain (2-0) will join Glasspool and Heliovaara if they win at least one set tonight against No. 3 seeds Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of El Salvador and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands. However, if the Salvadoran-Dutch duo wins in straight sets, they – and not Ram and Salisbury – will advance.

Koolhof and Skupski honored as year-end No. 1 doubles team

Following a stellar first year together as a team, Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Great Britain’s Neal Skupski were crowned ATP Doubles No. 1 presented by Pepperstone in a special ceremony at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin Thursday afternoon.

The Dutch-British team, who are competing as the top-seeded team in the year-end finale, was presented the year-end No. 1 doubles trophy by ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi on court at the Pala Alpitour.

“It’s incredible,” said Skupski, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “We only came together in January. One of our goals was just to make the Nitto ATP Finals. We’ve come in and won seven titles this year and come in as the No. 1 seeds. So, this is a dream come true, to end the year No. 1.”

Koolhof was asked what has made him and Skupski such a formidable team. “That’s the main thing, the main difference between singles and doubles,” he said. “We win together, lose together, share moments on and off court together. … In January the click was there from the beginning. We have the same interests off the court as well, we have the same idea of how to practice and how to play tennis in general.”

Currently, Koolhof and Skupski are 55-18 for the season. They have garnered ATP Masters 1000 titles in Madrid, Montreal and Paris and won ATP 250 trophies in Melbourne, Adelaide, Doha and ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Thursday’s Nitto ATP Finals results

Friday’s Nitto ATP Finals order of play

By the numbers

Felix Auger-Aliassime seeks his fifth semifinal in the last six weeks when he meets Taylor Fritz in the last Green Group singles match Thursday evening. Fritz is going after his fourth semifinal of 2022. Fritz went on to capture the title following all of his previous semifinals this year, including his straight-set victory over Rafael Nadal in the ATP Masters 1000 Indian Wells final. Fritz’s 44 wins in this season are 10 more than he earned in any other season.

“Quotable …”

“It’s going to be a lot of big hitting. kind of honestly how every match is going to go on this court – it’s going to come down to protecting your serve well, maybe making something happen on the return game It’s really going to just come down to holding serve and playing my service games well.”

– American Taylor Fritz previewing his Green Group showdown against Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, which takes place Thursday evening. The winner will advance to Saturday’s semifinal stage of the Nitto ATP Finals.