Nadal out of ATP Finals after loss; Ruud through to semis

Getty Images
2 Comments

TURIN, Italy – Rafael Nadal’s error-strewn performance saw him eliminated from the ATP Finals, missing out once again on adding one of the few major trophies still missing from his glittering list of titles.

The top-seeded Nadal lost 6-3, 6-4 to tournament debutant Felix Auger-Aliassime to leave him with two straight group-stage defeats in Turin. That result coupled with a victory for third-seeded Casper Ruud over Taylor Fritz in the later match meant a swift exit for Nadal.

Ruud became the first player to book a spot in the semifinals.

It also meant that Carlos Alcaraz is guaranteed to end the year ranked No. 1 and the Spanish player will travel to Turin to attend a special ceremony on Wednesday.

The 36-year-old Nadal has now lost four straight matches for only the second time in his career, following defeats at the U.S. Open and Paris. After starting the season by winning the Australian Open and French Open to take his tally of Grand Slam titles to a record 22, Nadal has played just eight singles matches since having to withdraw from the Wimbledon semifinals with an injury.

“Couple of positive things. I was able to play two tournaments in the past three weeks. That’s the positive thing, something that I was not able to do for a while,” Nadal said. “I don’t think I forgot how to play tennis, how to be strong enough mentally. I just need to recover all these positive feelings and all this confidence and all this strong mentality that I need to be at the level that I want to be.

“I don’t know if I going to reach that level again. But what I don’t have any doubt is that I (am) going to die for it.”

Nadal was beaten by eighth-seeded Fritz of the United States in their opening match on Sunday.

The fifth-seeded Auger-Aliassime also lost his opener, to Ruud, and so Tuesday’s match was crucial to both players’ hopes of staying in the tournament.

The turning point came in the eighth game. Nadal was 40-0 up on his serve but two double-faults and a string of errors handed Auger-Aliassime the first break of the match.

Nadal had already wasted four break points, including two in the first game.

Auger-Aliassime served out for the set and went on to break Nadal’s serve again in the third game of the second set. The Canadian sealed the match at his first opportunity when Nadal hit a return into the net.

“I wasn’t sure If I would be here one day or if I could only dream of it,” said Auger-Aliassime of his first victory over Nadal in three attempts.

“The age difference is huge, and it proves what a champion he is and what an example because he is still here at 36, battling against guys in their young 20s. He is a great champion and has a great attitude.”

Nadal has never won the ATP Finals title in 10 attempts. He finished runner-up in 2010 and 2013.

Nadal needed Fritz to beat Ruud in two sets to have any chance of reaching the semifinals and that hope was dashed when the Norwegian won 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (6).

Davis Cup: Australia beats Croatia 2-1 to reach final

Day Four - Davis Cup Finals 2022
Getty Images
1 Comment

MALAGA, Spain – Australia had to fight back twice to reach its first Davis Cup final in 19 years after beating Croatia 2-1 on Friday.

Lleyton Hewitt’s team recovered from losing the first singles. Then the Australian doubles pair battled back from a set down in the decider.

Australia won its 28th and last title in 2003. It has finally got back to the final.

“I am so proud. Australia has a really rich history in this competition,” said Hewitt, who played a record 43 Davis Cup ties for Australia from 1999-2018.

“We have been fortunate to win it all on a number of occasions a long time ago. And I know what it meant to me as a player to play a final, and I am glad these guys can play it.”

Borna Coric put Croatia ahead by beating Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 6-3, but Alex de Minaur leveled after defeating Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2 to send it to the doubles.

Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell then secured the semifinal win against Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic by 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-4.

“This is what this team is about, that never-say-die attitude,” De Minaur said.

Canada will face Italy on Saturday in the other semifinal.

In the opener, Kokkinakis struck 11 aces, but Coric was able to break him once in each set.

“On my serve, I felt like it was an ace or he put it back on my toes,” Kokkinakis said.

Cilic, who was on the Croatia team that won the title in 2018, committed 10 double faults. That erratic serve helped De Minaur break Cilic four times and level his head-to-head record with the former U.S Open winner at two wins each.

Thompson and Purcell bettered the more experienced pair of Mektic and Pavic, both ranked in the top 10 in doubles. Thompson and Purcell combined for 13 aces, broke the Croats twice, and never dropped a service game to come back after losing the first-set tiebreaker.

Two-time winner Croatia was the runner-up last year.

“It proved too difficult on the court today,” Cilic said. “(But) for us it has been a great year again after the finals last year to reach the semis.”

The final is on Sunday on the indoor court in Malaga.

Italy beats U.S. to reach Davis Cup semifinal with Canada

Getty Images
1 Comment

MALAGA, Spain — Italy beat the United States in a doubles decider to advance to the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time in eight years.

Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini defeated Tommy Paul and Jack Sock 6-4, 6-4 to secure a 2-1 win for Italy after the teams split the singles matches.

Bolelli and Fognini broke once in each set to set up a semifinal against Canada, which beat Germany 2-1.

Earlier, Lorenzo Sonego used his big serve to defeat Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 7-6 (7) and give the Italians a 1-0 lead. Taylor Fritz pulled the U.S. level after beating Lorenzo Musetti 7-6 (8), 6-3.

The U.S. holds a record 32 Davis Cup trophies, but its last one came in 2007 under the previous format of best-of-five matches played in host countries instead of the revamped event where the final eight teams gather in one spot for a week of tennis. The American team led by captain Mardy Fish came to Spain with high hopes that it could break that dry spell.

“I have wanted to win this thing for a very long time as a player and captain,” Fish said. “It is not going to happen this year and it stinks. We are going home without the trophy, which is a bummer.”

Italy, whose only Davis Cup title came in 1976, won without its top two players as Jannik Sinner has an injured finger and Matteo Berrettini is recovering from a foot problem.

Sonego, ranked No. 45, struck 17 aces and never ceded a service game to Tiafoe. Sonego clinched the win after Tiafoe netted a forehand following a long rally to end the second-set tiebreaker.

No. 19-ranked Tiafoe, who reached the U.S. Open semifinals in September, won their only previous meeting at the Paris Masters just over three weeks ago.

This time Sonego took the initiative, Tiafoe said.

“A couple of weeks ago I was playing very aggressive, running him around, hitting much harder. Today, he was,” Tiafoe said.

Sonego saved two set points while serving at 6-5 in the second set to force the tiebreaker. He said he drew on the loud Italian fans who showed up to support him in Spain, which is home to more than 250,000 Italians.

“I am really proud of my team and of this unbelievable crowd, it looks like we are in Italy. They support us from the beginning,” said Italy captain Filippo Volandri.

Fritz hit 12 aces and had one break to beat the No. 23-ranked Musetti for a second time after defeating him at Wimbledon in June.

Canada’s Denis Shapovalov rebounded from losing his opening singles match to help clinch the winning point in doubles against Germany.

Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, ranked 152nd, beat the No. 18-ranked Shapovalov 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2) in the opener. Felix Auger-Aliassime kept Canada’s hopes alive with his 7-6 (1), 6-4 victory over Oscar Otte, sending it to doubles.

Shapovalov then teamed up with Vasek Pospisil to beat Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

A Croatia team led by Marin Cilic advanced to the other semifinal after beating a Spain side that was missing Rafael Nadal and No. 1-ranked Carlos Alcaraz.

Croatia will face Australia in the other semifinal.