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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, November 17, 2021

 
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Casper Ruud topped Cameron Norrie 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 and will face Andrey Rublev on Friday with the winner advancing to the semifinals of the ATP Finals.

Photo credit: Julian Finney/Getty

Casper Ruud is learning to fly in his ATP Finals debut—and has earned a shot to land a semifinal spot in Turin.

The eighth-seeded Ruud will face Andrey Rublev in Friday’s final round-robin match with the winner joining Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev in the final four.

More: Djokovic Defeats Rublev, Rolls Into Semifinals

Ruud repelled a tricky alternate reality rallying past Cameron Norrie 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 scoring his first-round robin win in his ATP Finals debut. The victory came hours after world No. 1 Djokovic drilled Rublev 6-3, 6-2 to secure his 10th semifinal in 14 career appearances at the season-ending event.




Second alternate Norrie stepped in for 2019 champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, who withdrew from the tournament due to a right elbow injury that forced him to retire from his Rolex Paris Masters match earlier this month. 

The 26-year-old Norrie's appearance came the night after first alternate Jannik Sinner replaced injured Italian compatriot Matteo Berrettini in the field and defeated Hubert Hurkacz. This is just the third time in ATP Finals history two alternates have been pressed into action at the elite eight-man event, it last occurred 23 years ago when alternates Greg Rusedski and Albert Costa both played in the draw.

Tonight's match was a rematch of the San Diego final that saw Ruud demolish Norrie 6-0, 6-2, but the Briton shrewdly used quicker court conditions in Turin to his advantage redirecting Ruud's drives and creating some sharp angles.

A near-flawless Norrie barely missed a shot streaking through the opening set. For nearly two full sets, Norrie was in control, but he played a poor game to drop serve and fall behind 3-5 in the second set. Ruud exploited that lapse and ran with it as he sharpened his serve and landed his ferocious forehand more frequently over the course of the final two sets.

“I wasn’t feeling like his shots too good in the beginning,” Ruud told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj afterward. “But then I stepped up a little bit with my service and I was able to kind of hold of serve in the second set and then a couple of points here and there and the match can turn around.

“I think Cameron was the better player for the first set and most of the second set. And then I was able to somehow turn it around, momentum switches and it's game on. The third set I was also serving well and lucky to get one break.”

Conventional wisdom was the quick Turin court combined with Ruud’s relentless desire to run around his backhand to launch his nuclear topspin forehand would create timing issues for the first Norwegian to contest the ATP Finals.

That’s what happened in the opening set as an unerring Norrie gave Ruud every opportunity to sail several forehands long and the eighth seed complied.

The Indian Wells champion exploited some loose lapses—Ruud misfired a diagonal forehand and netted a backhand—breaking in the fourth game. The second alternate clubbed a bounce smash into the corner confirming the break for 4-1.

In San Diego, Ruud’s massive forehand overwhelmed Norrie for stretches. In today’s opener, Norrie turned the tables repelling everything Ruud hit at him and drawing another errant forehand breaking for 5-1 just 25 minutes into the match.

Everything was going Norrie’s way as he correctly challenged chair umpire Carlos Bernardes’ incorrect not-up call against him and proceeded to serve out the set. Norrie converted his third set point seizing the 33-minute opener.

"I was feeling good in practice, and I have been doing a lot of gym throughout the week," Norrie said. "I was ready to play and compete. I came out firing and loved the match.

"It just came down to a couple of games in the second and third. I donated my serve twice, and then he played very clean on his serve throughout the last two sets. It was a couple games, but I was really happy with my level and especially with not playing too many points throughout the last couple weeks."

Norrie’s game is clever coercion: he applies angle and depth to compel opponents into excessive risk. Ruud tamed his wayward forehand and made his move in the second set.




Down 3-4 in the second set, Norrie lost the plot producing his sloppiest game of the match with three consecutive unforced errors. Norrie missed a forehand down the line for double break point. Ruud immediately cashed in breaking the Briton for 5-3 when Norrie botched a drop volley into net. Ruud served out the second set at 15.

“Obviously, you need to take some more chances here than maybe on a clay court where you have more time to build the points,” Ruud said. “Here if you’re a bit late to the ball it kind of flies out because it’s a little bit of altitude makes it come kind of fly a little bit more and it’s very, very fast. So as soon as you’re late here it can fly quite a lot.

“I’m sure guys watching on TV are seeing shots going very, very far but that’s here it is on these conditions and I’ve been here almost a week already. It’s obviously a challenge it’s not what I dream about this type of conditions I have to accept it.”

The former junior world No. 1 scored the lone break of the final set at 3-2 when Norrie launched his second double fault to gift the break to Ruud.

Tennis Express

Stress arrived as Ruud served for the match and squandered a 40-love triple match point lead. Norrie knocked a two-hander long to give Ruud a fourth match point. Ruud slashed a serve out wide to close and set up Friday's forehand showdown vs. Rublev.

"I’m very happy to get this first win," Ruud said. "This can give me confidence going into the next match which can be an important match. I think the winner of Andrey and myself can move on to the semis."

 

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