Rafael Nadal suffered his fourth defeat in a row as Felix Auger-Aliassime downed the top seed 6-3 6-4 at the ATP Finals on Tuesday. It means the world No 2 could be eliminated from the group stage as early as tonight depending on the result of the other Green Group match between Taylor Fritz and Casper Ruud, ruining his chances of securing the year-end No 1 ranking.
Nadal and Auger-Aliassime were both looking for their first win at this week’s ATP Finals after losing their respective opening matches in the Green Group on Sunday. The contest had an extra element of intrigue with the Canadian being coached by Nadal’s uncle Toni, as the 61-year-old opted to sit in Auger-Aliassime’s camp against his nephew and former charge.
It was a shaky start for the fifth seed as he immediately found himself facing two break points but Auger-Aliassime managed to get through the game and failed to lose another point on his serve until 3-3, when Nadal set up two more break points. It was another strong display from the 22-year-old to hold on as he continued to dominate on his first serve points, having won 17 of 17.
The top seed suddenly found himself in trouble as he lost four straight points on his serve to go from 40-0 to deuce, throwing a couple of double faults in to ultimately cost him the game as Auger-Aliassime earned his first break of the match and converted immediately courtesy of an error from the Nadal racket.
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It gave the ATP Finals debutant the chance to serve for the set and he closed it out 6-3 after 53 minutes to win his first-ever set at the tournament while the Spaniard found himself close to his fourth-successive defeat. Nadal continued to struggle into the second set as he hit eight unforced errors in the first three games to find himself broken to trail by a set and 1-2.
The Spaniard was forced to fend off another break point before he finally earned his first break point of the set to get back on level terms with Auger-Aliassime but he was unable to capitalise, instead finding himself two games from defeat as the 22-year-old extended his lead to 4-2. Auger-Aliassime continued to outplay the 36-year-old as he served out a 6-3 6-4 victory in an hour and 57 minutes, hitting a whopping 32 winners en route to his maiden ATP Finals victory.
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It means Nadal is left hanging by a thread to stay alive in the Green Group, as he can still remain with a chance of making the semi-finals if Taylor Fritz defeats Casper Ruud in straight sets during the second singles match of the day. The Spaniard could then make it into the semi-final with a straight-set win over Ruud on Thursday and a loss for Auger-Aliassime to Fritz.
But the top seed will be eliminated in the round-robin stage if Ruud wins or the American wins in three sets later today, leaving him unable to win his maiden ATP Finals title or reach the year-end No 1 ranking. Nadal could already be out of contention when he faces the Norwegian on Thursday but will still be bidding to get a win under his belt for some extra confidence ahead of the 2023 season after suffering four losses in a row.