Nadal exits through the back door

Rafael Nadal leaves the court after losing to Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second match of the ATP Masters in Turin. Marco Bertorello/AFP

While not a surprise, it is nonetheless a disappointment. Rafael Nadal, who hasn’t competed since July, suffered a second defeat on Tuesday in as many matches at the Turin Masters he left early, leaving his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz (absent from the tournament due to a stomach injury) in the world’s No. 1 spot. .

For his part, Norwegian Kasper Ruud (World No. 4) advanced to the semi-finals, as he did last year, beating Taylor Fritz (No. 9) 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (8/6) in the evening. . On Thursday, the American will face Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime (6th) and a second ticket to the green group semi-finals will be at stake.

Eighteenth failure

End-of-season indoor tournaments have never worked for Nadal, and the Masters (which bring together the season’s top eight players each year) are likely to remain the only big hole in his massive roster.

Since 2005, when he was able to participate for the first time, eighteen editions have been played. But that year, as in 2008, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018, he gave up due to injuries. Otherwise, he lost two finals (2010 and 2013), reached the semi-finals four times and did not come out of the pools five times. In 2021, he did not qualify.

After losing in straight sets to Fritz on Sunday, the 36-year-old Spaniard (2nd in the world) lost again, failing to take a single set from Auger-Aliassime. So much so that by winning the first set of his match against Fritz in the evening, Ruud sealed Nadal’s relegation.

Suddenly Alcaraz (injury package before the start of the Masters), who at 19 became the youngest

No. 1 in the world since the existence of the ATP rankings (1973), and also became the youngest No. 1 at the end of the year. And the first of the Big Four (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray) to finish the season on the throne since Andy Roddick in 2003.

If the loss to Fritz left him with a bitter aftertaste, then Nadal’s feelings were not so negative after he succumbed to Auger-Aliassime. “Overall, it was better than the other day,” he said. But I did not know how to take advantage of even one opportunity that I had. »

Where the Rafa of the big days is ruthless, the Rafa of this end of the season is crumbling. On Tuesday, the player with 22 Grand Slam titles failed to realize his potential or improve his level in key areas. He didn’t win any of the five break points he received and saved only two of the four missed by the opponent.

Difficulties with the first serve made Auger-Aliassime quickly come under pressure in the first set, having to save two break points in the first game and two more at 3-3.

First time since 2009

But every time he got away with it, and it was the Spaniard who broke in the eighth installment, knew how to conclude and missed the first break in the game. Then his opponent from Canada easily completed the first set on the pitch.

“That game at 4-3 was terrible. Then I fought to the end, but when things go in this direction, it is not easy to change the dynamics and the result,” Nadal regretted, before summing up: “My opponent played key moments better. »

Auger-Aliassime beat the Spaniard for the first time in three games, including in the 1/8 finals at Roland Garros, where he pushed the holder of 14 titles on Parisian soil into the fifth set.

The Canadian assured that he received no “secrets” about Nadal from his uncle and historical coach Tony, who is now part of his staff. On the other hand, after Roland-Garros, he “greatly improved (his) backhand and (his) serve performance”, which, combined with the serve and forehand “always at a very high level”, worked wonders on the fast covering of the Pala Alpitour in Turin.

Nadal also recorded a fourth loss in a row (after those in the round of 16 at the US Open and once he entered the race in Paris, as well as in Turin), which has not happened to him since November 2009.

Igor GEDILAGIN/AFP

Source: L Orient Le Jour

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