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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, November 17, 2022

 
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Rafael Nadal zapped 16 aces and broke in the last game of both sets beating Casper Ruud 7-5, 7-5 in his last match of the season at the ATP Finals.

Photo credit: Marco Bertorello/Getty

Few champions have conquered the fear factor with the fury of Rafael Nadal.

"Losing is not my enemy," Nadal famously said. "Fear of losing is my enemy."

Nadal: I'm Going to Die For It

Mired in his first four-match losing streak in 13 years, Nadal faced fear of defeat with declarative strikes.

Nadal zapped 16 aces and broke in the last game of both sets beating buddy Casper Ruud 7-5, 7-5 to snap his losing streak and wrap his 2022 season with a rousing ATP Finals win in Turin.

"At the end it's about finish the season with a victory. It's about see myself competitive against a great player with chances of victory," Nadal said. "It's about to have the personal satisfaction that after a couple of very tough days, I went yesterday on the practice courts and I make a very good practice with the right attitude. Today I receive the prize for that practice of yesterday, and that's it.

"It's about come back home with the satisfaction that I gived my best till the last match. Now a victory, a perspective to be better and better."

After falling to Felix-Auger-Aliassime in a Tuesday loss that halted his shot of securing a sixth year-end World No. 1 ranking and reaching the Turin semifinals, the 36-year-old Spaniard made a commitment vow.




"I don't know if I going to reach that level again. But what I don't have any doubt, that I going to die for it," Nadal told the media in Turin.

An energized Nadal lived up to his word playing proactive points from the very start. Nadal won 38 of 41 first-serve points and saved both break points he faced in a one hour, 42-minute triumph.

With this win, Nadal extends his lead to 600 points over frequent practice partner Ruud in the race for the year-end No. 2 spot behind Carlos Alcaraz, the youngest year-end No. 1 in ATP history.

Nadal, who started the season on a 21-match winning streak, concludes 2022 with a 39-8 record, four titles and about $7 million in prize money.

"Two Grand Slams, finishing the year in the highest spot of the rankings, so can't complain at all," Nadal said in his on-court interview. "At my age to be able to achieve and be competitive means a lot to me.

"So 2023, just let's try to have the right preparation, work the proper way and start the season with the right energy, no. The right energy, the right attitude and try to reach the level that I need to be competitive from the beginning."




Though Ruud had already won the Green Group and secured his semifinal spot, he took the court playing for quite a lot today. The 23-year-old Ruud was playing for his first career Top 3 win and the prospect of the biggest payday in the sport's history. An undefeated ATP Finals champion would earn $4,740,300—a lucrative prize still available to five-time champion Novak Djokovic..

Though Ruud earned the first break points of the day and stayed in step on serve for much of the match, he's still seeking that Top 3 breakthrough. Ruud dropped to 0-8 in matches and 0-20 in sets against Top 3-ranked opponents.

This round-robin match was a rematch of the Roland Garros final that saw Nadal make history as the oldest men's French Open champion. Two days after celebrating his 36th birthday, Nadal roared through 11 consecutive games demolishing Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in the French Open final to win a record-extending 14th Roland Garros crown.

In the French Open final, Nadal carved up Ruud in baseline rallies, broke down his backhand wing and battered the man from Oslo’s serve.

Playing on the faster Turin court today, Nadal opened up his entire shot arsenal, serving sharply, showing some superb volleys and hammering Ruud's backhand to open the court before sometimes slashing his forehand down the line.

Playing for his first win since the US Open—and to prevent the second five-match losing streak of his career—Nadal slammed successive aces holding in the opening game.

Tennis Express

Deadlocked at 4-all, Nadal netted a forehand to face a first break point. The 36-year-old Spaniard serve-and-volleyed and shoveled back a deep volley. Ruud had a good look at the forehand pass but put it into net.

An acute-angled backhand from Ruud caught the inside of the sideline for a second break point. Nadal nullified it with a deep serve. The former No. 1 found his first serve when he needed it, taming trouble to hold for 5-4.




US Open finalist Ruud lost the plot in the 12th game. Ruud pasted a backhand into net to face triple set point. Running around his backhand, Nadal was near the sideline when whipped a forehand down the line, followed it forward and knocked off a high forehand volley to take a one-set lead with a love break—his first break of the tournament.




The former No. 1 won six of 12 points played on Ruud's second serve in the 52-minute opener.

It was just the second time all tournament Ruud surrendered serve.

Landing the opening set propelled Nadal into flight to start the second.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion owns one of the best overheads in the sport and showed it. His back to the net, Nadal soared high for an electric backhand flick overhead winner. The Spaniard pulled off the toughest shot in tennis with elegant ease holding in the opening game of the second set.

 


The third-seeded Ruud held at 15 in four of his first five service games of the second set. Nadal responded with a slick half-volley pick-up before pumping his 16th ace to hold for 6-5.

On the quick, low-bouncing Turin court, Ruud occasionally had struggles lifting the low ball. Lack of net clearance cost Ruud a netted error to fall to love-30. Bouncing to the right of the center stripe, Nadal zapped a diagonal forehand for double match point.

On his second match point, Nadal cracked a two-handed winner capping his season with a sharp one hour, 42-minute victory. Coaches Carlos Moya, Francisco Roig and Marc Lopez—as well as Uncle Toni Nadal, who sat in the box throughout the match, exchanged high-fives and hugs.

 

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