He was pushed all the way in a night-session thriller on Tuesday, but Casper Ruud is a Nitto ATP Finals semi-finalist once again.
The third seed prevailed 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(6) in a high-powered clash against Taylor Fritz at the season finale in Turin to confirm his progression from Green Group. The Norwegian backed up his opening victory against Felix Auger-Aliassime by holding his nerve in the deciding-set tie-break to claim a tense two-hour, 12-minute victory.
After the pair split an opening two sets largely dominated by serve, a moment of Fritz magic maintained parity in the decider as the American saved a break point at 2-2, 40/A with a stunning diving backhand volley. Yet Ruud stayed solid throughout the third set, facing no break points and producing some heavy-hitting in a dramatic tie-break that saw Fritz save two match points from 4/6 before the Norwegian sealed his triumph in the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting.
“Only a couple of points decide a match like this,” Ruud said. “Fortunately for me, they went my way at the end. I was 5/1 up in the tie-break and he turned it around. He played some great points and hit some incredible winners to come back to 6/6. I hesitated a little bit at 6/4, but that is normal.
“There was a lot at stake… I am sad for Taylor, but I was so happy to see that last forehand sail long. To book my place in the semi-finals felt great.”
Ruud is a three-time champion on the ATP Tour this season. The 23-year-old lifted trophies on clay in Buenos Aires, Geneva and Gstaad, and he will now compete in the Nitto ATP Finals for the second consecutive year. The Norwegian reached the same stage on tournament debut in 2021, when he fell to Daniil Medvedev.
After winning just two matches in four tour-level tournaments prior to Turin, Ruud was happy with the way he has regained his best form at the Pala Alpitour.
“I think my movement has been much better in recent weeks,” Ruud said. “I feel I am moving better now than in the past months. You will face tougher moments in periods of your career when you are heavier in the legs, and they aren’t working. But here in Turin they are working well.
“Every time you feel your movement is good it gives you confidence, knowing you can reach a couple of extra balls.”
Ruud made a rapid start against Fritz in the fast conditions at the Pala Alpitour. He piled the pressure on the American early with clean hitting off both wings and claimed the only break of the opening set in the second game.
Fritz recovered well from that disappointment, slowing his opponent’s momentum with some big serving. He dropped just one point behind his first delivery in the second set and produced some clean baseline hitting in the 10th game to break the Norwegian’s serve and force a decider.
After Fritz pulled off his stunning volley and then fired an ace to save two break points at 2-2, a contest of fine margins came to a thrilling climax in the third-set tie-break. Fritz saved two match points from 4/6, but Ruud stayed consistent to outlast the American and seal his semi-final berth.
The close-fought nature of the match was reflected by the winner count. Both players hit 36 winners, including 14 aces for Ruud and 15 for Fritz.