TURIN: Rafael Nadal may be going home but he made sure to avoid matching his worst losing streak with a 7-5, 7-5 win over the Norwegians Casper Ruud to ATP Finals Thursday.
Consecutive defeats in two sets in the group of the Greens by Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime means the 22-time Grand Slam champion missed the semi-finals.
But the Spaniard was clearly keen not to end a season which had started so spectacularly by succumbing to a fifth successive defeat – something the 36-year-old hadn’t experienced since the start of his career in 2004-05 .
With world number four Ruud already assured of a place in the semi-finals, the match was effectively a dead rubber.
Even so, the first set was full of intensity inside the Pala Alpitour where the afternoon crowd was firmly behind Nadal.
Nadal fended off a few break points at 4-4 in the first set as Ruud threatened, but after that the Mallorcan found the range on his forehand.
Ruud, 23, was down 0-40 on serve at 5-6 and world number two Nadal needed just one chance to seal the set, hitting a volley into an empty court.
It was a similar story in the second set with nothing between the players until Nadal pounced again in the 12th game.
Ruud saved a match point but Nadal then clubbed a backhand winner to end his season on a high.
“I trained well, but I just haven’t had enough games to be at the level I need, not enough confidence after six difficult months,” Nadal said on the pitch.
“At least I finished with a positive victory, which is important.”
Ruud will go to the semis but is now 0-8 against top-three seeded opponents.
Later Thursday, debutants Auger-Aliassime and Fritz square off with a semi-final berth on the line.

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