The eight best tennis players of the season gathered at the final event of 2022. The tournament is also called the fifth slam, where champions become champions. The campaign kicked off in Turin on November 13 at the Pala Alpitour with the green group meetings.
Casper Ruud VS Felix Auger-Aliassime
The 23-year-old Norwegian and the Canadian debutant were honored to open the tournament. Auger-Aliassime, who had won three titles and was on a 16-match winning streak before the loss in Paris, was seen as the clear favorite against Ruud, who arrived in Italy on the back of four losses in his last six meetings.
However, the meeting took place in an unexpected scenario for many. The Norwegian showed fantastic physicality from the start and was excellent with his delivery, which was one of the most important keys against a suitable opponent in the fast conditions in Turin. The Canadian was not bad with his serve either, but beyond that, it was much more difficult for him to win rallies.
Although the first set passed without a breakpoint, the superiority of Casper Ruud was obvious. That paid off in the tiebreak, where the Norwegian took the most crucial points of the set to close out it at 7-4.
The dynamics of the game did not change much in the second set. Casper successfully converted the only break point received in the seventh game and finally finished the match in two sets, 7:6, 6:4.
In the postmatch interview the Norwegian said that the last few months have been a bit of a breakdown for him, but he has already found his rhythm in Turin and intends to continue with that attitude.
It’s worth to mention that Casper Ruud have reached the semi-final stage only once in indoor hard courts, and it also happened here, at the ATP Finals, during his debut appearance last year.
Rafa Nadal vs Taylor Fritz
At the night session of the first matchday, we had a rematch of the Indian Wells Masters final.
For the fifth time in history, Rafael Nadal enters the event as the number one seed since Carlos Alcaraz withdrew from the campaign due to injury.
There were plenty of question marks surrounding the Spaniard, for whom playing on indoor hard courts is his Achilles’ heel. We saw some problems from him at the Paris Masters two weeks ago, where he lost his match against Tommy Paul without hard battle.
On the other hand, Taylor Fritz is extremely motivated. He has secured his place among the top eight players after the withdraw of Alcaraz, and is competing in the ATP Finals for the very first time. Moreover, the fast conditions in Turin give a tennis player with his playing style an excellent advantage.
The first set was completely equal. The American found a rhythm from the beginning, where he did not lose the serve until the last episode. He did not give Rafa any chance from the return.
Matador tried to keep his foot up as much as possible for the pace proposed by Fritz. In the process, he saved three breakpoints, but still lost the control in the tiebreak and gave his opponent two serves. The American was flawless and won the tiebreak 7-3.
The second set was even more complicated for Nadal. He was broken twice in a row. The second break was especially unpleasant when Rafa gave up the game after almost 13 minutes of fighting. In the end, Fritz won the second set with a crushing margin, 6-1. This was his debut victory at the ATP Finals.
There was a possibility that Rafa could leave the tournament if he had lost the first match. However, after this defeat, he quickly confirmed on social media that he would continue to fight.
At the post-match press conference, the 36-year-old Spaniard was very disappointed. According to him, he still needs to play a certain number of matches to get back into the decent form:
“It’s an extra challenge to be back on tour after not competing at all for the past few months. Because you don’t have enough time to gain confidence. From the start, you’re facing tough matches, and the small details of the conditions make a big difference. These small details give an advantage to players who have more confidence. I do not have this advantage in this case. That’s all. I have to accept this and continue working. There is no other way. I know I’m training with the right methods and approach. After that, it will be necessary to improve in the matches, that’s for sure. I still have a chance at the current campaign, although I am not happy with the beginning.”Rafa Nadal.
ATP Finals to be continued on Monday, November 14, with matches of the red group.