The most relevant match of the day was the ‘winner-take-all’ clash between Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger Aliassime for a place in the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals being staged in Italy.
It is huge,. From possibly not even qualifying to now be in the semis feels great. I felt like I was going to play well here. I feel that I always play my best tennis against the best players. Taylor Fritz
It was also a great example of making the most of the opportunities which come your way as Fritz was competing in the absence of the injured Carlos Alcaraz having only qualified for a trip to Turin as an Alternate player – and now he is in the last four!
The American, making his debut at the end-of-season extravaganza, beat his fellow debutant, 7-6(4) 6-7(4) 6-2 after two-hours and 44-minutes of high-quality tennis.
In the opening two sets, the serve dominated proceedings with neither player able to force a breakthrough and it was only in the third that Fritz was able to capitalise on the tiring Canadian to grab the win and second place in the Green Group behind Casper Ruud for a place in last four.
“I needed to serve well the whole time, I knew that,” Fritz said following his victory. “It was frustrating throughout the match when (on) so many points, I was one away from break point. So many times at 15-30, 0-30 when I was returning, I got myself in the points and kept losing the points. I just tried to stay patient and not get frustrated and then I capitalized when I got the chances.”
After sealing victory on his first match point Fritz could hardly contain his delight at his achievement.
“It is huge,” he said when asked about reaching the semi-finals. “From possibly not even qualifying to now be in the semis feels great.
“I felt like I was going to play well here. I feel that I always play my best tennis against the best players.”
Disappointment for Auger Aliassime who has yet to beat Fritz on the tour having now lot to him twice this year.
“It was a very high-quality match for sure,” Auger-Aliassime admitted. “In the third set, bad choices, bad execution (in) some parts. Maybe I lost the focus a little bit. The fact that I’m tired, sometimes you don’t feel like you’re tired, but it’s late, you’ve played a lot. I’ve played a long year.”
Fritz will have a day off before returning Saturday to face the Red Group winner which will be either Novak Djokovic or the Stefanos Tsitsipas-Andrey Rublev winner.
Earlier, Rafael Nadal got a win topping Casper Ruud 7-5 7-5 after 104-minutes in a rematch of their French Open final, to end the Spaniard’s season on a more positive note after having lost the last four matches he has played.
Ruud had already won the Green Group so all the two were playing for was points (200) and prize money (over $380K).
“I have been practicing well,” Nadal said. “Just probably not enough matches to be at the level that I needed to be. Not enough confidence, probably, after six tough months. That’s how it is. I accept that the season didn’t end the way that I wanted, (but) at least I finished with a positive victory.
“It’s important, the last official match of the season, so I am happy for that. At the end I am happy about that… I was able to win against a great player.
“For me in the end the personal satisfaction is more important than any title. That’s how it is. If I don’t try my best and put in my best attitude in every single moment, then I will not be able to be back home and be happy and calm with myself.”
Asked about his plans for next season, Nadal said: “I can’t ask for more. 2022 has already seen a tough six months. Two Grand Slams and finishing the year in a higher spot in the rankings so I can’t complain at all at my age. Still remaining competitive means a lot to me.
“2023 will be just to have the right preparation, work the proper way and then start the season with the right energy, attitude and reach the level I need to be to be competitive from the beginning. Let’s try. I am excited about it.”
On Friday, the round-robin wraps up with Djokovic trying to stay undefeated against rival Daniil Medvedev who has been eliminated.
Like Thursday, the big match is another ‘ winner-take-all’ clash between Tsitsipas and Rublev.
The semi-finals will be played on Saturday.